February 22, 2012
Students’ Protests and University Salaries
Students should join with taxpayers to protest the high salaries given to professors and administrators
University students across Canada held noisy demonstrations on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. The students were concerned about the cost and the quality of the education they were receiving. Tens of thousands turned out to let citizens and governments know that they were dissatisfied. Simply stated, students are paying too much and receiving too little.
A number of professors supported these students. At Ryerson University, for example, professors and administrators permitted students to skip classes without penalties. For them, students are paying too much, but the education they receive is at least good, if not excellent.
According to Statistics Canada, the average annual undergraduate tuition fee is now $5,366, which has increased by between 3 and 4 percent per year over the last two decades. Also, according to Statistics Canada the total revenue for Canadian universities in 2008-2009 was $37.4 billion. Of this, tuition fees represented 20.5 percent and federal, provincial, and municipal government grants represented 55.2 percent. The remaining 24.3 percent came from the sale of goods and services, investments, and other revenues, some of which were other fees paid by students.
The Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Association of University Teachers have both recognized that the demand for university education and the cost are outstripping resources. Consequently, together they have called on the federal government to pass legislation that would provide targeted funds to provinces earmarked specifically for post secondary education.
Students and professors have been united in expecting governments to increase their grants to universities to offset the students’ increasing tuition fees. They both agree that universities are underfunded and students are paying too much. If true, then governments and taxpayers must be paying too little.
Nevertheless, before complaining too loudly, students, specifically, should look at how universities spend the $37.4 billion they receive.
If so, they would discover that a substantial increase in the cost of universities results from the compensation paid to professors and administrators. The table reports that the salaries for full professors and the compensation given to presidents of 13 Western Canadian universities in 2005 and 2009.
Seven of the universities report the average salaries of full professors, which increased from a low of 8.7 percent at the University of Northern British Columbia (from $98,488 to $107,052 per year) to a high of 26.2 percent at Athabasca University (from $110,937 to $139,975).
Even more telling, the total compensation the presidents of ten of the 13 universities received increased from a low of 10.7 percent at the University of Winnipeg, to a high of 132.8 percent at the University of Alberta. In fact, the three presidents with the highest yearly compensation packages in 2009 were from the University of Alberta ($701,000), UBC ($575,813), and Simon Fraser University ($483,666).
In other words, these presidents are worth 4.7 full professors (or the fees of 130.6 students) at Alberta, 3.8 full professors (or the fees of 107.3 students) at UBC, and 3.6 full professors (or the fees of 90.1 students) at Simon Fraser.
The increases to these professors and administrators are surprising because tuition fees have increased by about 15 percent while the consumer price index has increased by less than 7 percent between 2005 and 2009. Consequently, universities are increasing tuition fees at the same time they are giving their professors and administrators very nice compensation packages and substantial increases in the value of those packages.
It seems that students receive too little for their fees, but taxpayers are also paying too much.
Next February when the day of protest takes place, university students should join with taxpayers to demonstrate on the compensation that professors and university presidents receive and not against ‘penny-pinching’ governments who are—at least in the minds of professors and university administrators—underfunding universities.
is a Senior Scholar at the University of Manitoba and a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (www.fcpp.org). He received his B.Ed and M.Ed. from the University of Alberta, his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and his Fil.Dr. from the University of Stockholm. In addition, he has been awarded a Spencer Fellowship from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a Rh. Award from the University of Manitoba, a R.W.B. Jackson Research Award from the Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association, and both an Edward Sheffield and a Distinguished Research Awards from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education. He has written for numerous newspapers and journals, including the Canadian Journal of Education, Policy Options, Sociology of Education, the National Post, and the Winnipeg Free Press. His books include Socioeconomic Status, Attitudes, and Educational Performances: A Comparison of Students in England and New Zealand, Authority in Classrooms, Crosscurrents: Contemporary Canadian Educational Issues, and Recent Social Trends in Canada, 1960-2000. His most recent book, What’s Wrong With Our Schools and How We Can Fix Them, was published in 2010 and was written with Michael Zwaagstra and John Long.