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Biden: “Some faculty salaries are too high” (!)

BREAKING: A top Obama administration official said some public employee salaries were too high. Hell immediately froze over.

Last week, Vice President Biden remarked to a Pennsylvania crowd that high faculty salaries were one of the reasons tuition costs were skyrocketing:

In Pennsylvania, Biden responded to a question about why college costs keep going up by noting that it was a “puzzle” and that there was “no one thing” responsible. But among the factors he identified were increases in faculty salaries. “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he said. “They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.” Further, he explained that there is “a lot of competition for the finest professors. They all want the Nobel laureates.” And Biden said that many colleges are spending too much on items that don’t relate to student learning. As examples, he cited efforts to improve campus stadiums and the beauty of campuses generally. (The White House has not released a transcript of his talk, but the speech and Q&A may be viewed on YouTube,with this exchange starting around 47 minutes in.)

Inside Higher Ed doubted the veracity of the claim:

It is of course true that leading universities continue to pay top dollar for faculty members and to recruit Nobel laureates, but the reality is that most colleges and universities (and the institutions attended by most institutions) haven’t been pushing faculty salaries up substantially in recent years. And at most non-elite public campuses, one is more likely to find leaky ceilings than a Gehry building.

Sure, the typical lowly-paid English professor isn’t breaking any banks. But Biden is correct to observe that top professors and administrators–those whose salaries already exceed $150,000–continue to receive big, big raises year after year. During the course of a study I conducted for the Goldwater Institute last year, I discovered that the biggest raises at Arizonan public universities went to the most generously compensated employees–and that many of them weren’t even teachers.

This was also true in my home state of Michigan. An investigative report by The Detroit Free Press found that Michigan universities had increased spending on administrative positions by 30% over the last five years.

In other words–and I don’t find myself saying this very often–Biden is on to something. I’m with Biden.

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