CU under scrutiny for how it spends tuition increases

Published on: March 13th, 2012

Here’s a riddle: What do Mitt Romney, The Simpsons’ Montgomery Burns and the CU-Boulder leadership have in common?

Answer: An appalling lack of tact when it comes to publicly rolling in their wealth. Actually, amend that … Romney and Burns are simply tone-deaf when it comes to flaunting their millions in the faces of the less fortunate. And their money is private. CU-Boulder is financed by tax dollars and an ever increasing percentage of its students’ parents’ incomes.

Thanks to a series of reports from the Daily Camera, we know that an inordinate percentage of money from tuition increases has gone to raises for the university’s administrators. For example, the paper found that increased tuition revenue funded a $49,000 raise for CU Chancellor Phil DiStephano, bringing his salary to $389,000. In a story published today, the Camera reports that nearly a third of last year’s 9.3 percent tuition increase was used to give employees raises.

Other findings in the Camera‘s series on the university’s finances include:

›› The discovery that CU’s chief financial officer, Ric Porreca, was given a 43 percent increase in his salary over the three years prior to his retirement in 2011—an amount totaling about $100,000—even though then-CU president Hank Brown wanted him fired in 2006 for not alerting the CU regents of an $8 million shortfall in the athletics budget;

›› Porreca was one of three retirees who was rehired to administrative jobs and, despite being limited to working no more than 140 days per year, earned nearly full salaries when their university pay is combined with their pension payments. “Some CU employees say providing the perk to those in the upper echelon of the administration is unfair,” the paper reported, “because while they only are working 140 days a year — and receiving pay from both CU and PERA [the Public Employees Retirement Association] — the rest of the campus’s employees are being asked to do more for less.”

›› In-state undergraduates bear a larger burden of financing raises for administrators compared to out-of-state students. Sixty-three percent of last year’s 9.3 percent increase for in-state students has gone into the salary pool, the paper reported.

›› Just nine days after proposing a new 15.7 percent tuition increase in January, CU President Bruce Benson suggested that regents vote on it more quickly than in the past in order to outflank the media (most likely reporters at the Camera). In an email obtained by the paper, Benson wrote, “the more opportunities the media has to bring up the issue, the more difficult it becomes for us to communicate what we are doing.”

We’re sure it is difficult to have to answer questions about how you spend students’ money, especially when a significant proportion seems to go into the bank accounts of those proposing double-digit tuition increases. Forgive us for applauding the media for continuing to hold you accountable.

Keep up the good work, Camera.

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