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Congressman Eric Swalwell

Representing the 15th District of California


Swalwell Urges Greater Transparency of University President Pay

October 1, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) sent a letter urging Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to include salaries of the president and top three personnel at each university in the department’s annual survey providing data on postsecondary education. A study by the Institute for Policy Studies found that executive pay for university presidents and student debt are closely related and should be addressed together.

“With student debt now exceeding one trillion dollars and some public university presidents making upwards of $1 million each year, students deserve to know to what extent there is a correlation between administrator pay and tuition increases,” said Swalwell. “Making this information readily available will help us find ways to ease the growing tuition burden and ensure that our federal tax dollars are working for students.”

Each year the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics conducts the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) survey to provide valuable, publicly available data on postsecondary education, including the number of students enrolled, staff employed, dollars expended and degrees earned. Swalwell’s letter requests the IPEDS study include university president salary and compensation as well as that of the top three personnel as required fields.

Swalwell was joined on the letter by Members of Congress Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

The letter can be downloaded here.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Duncan:

We are writing to ask that you include university president salary and compensation as well as that of the top three personnel as required fields in the National Center for Education Statistics’s (NCES) yearly Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) survey.

As you may know, IPEDS provides valuable, publically available data on postsecondary education. This includes information on students enrolled, staff employed, dollars expended, and degrees earned. What is not included, however, is data on the pay and benefits of the highest compensated employees at these institutions.

Including pay and compensation for these few school employees in IPEDS studies would help paint a picture of an institution’s priorities. This, in turn, would assist students in making an educated decision about whether the school shares their values. Moreover, this would help ensure taxpayer dollars provided to and for students are spent wisely – for the benefit of students. Lastly, it also would allow policy makers and the public to detect trends over time.

Additionally, there is reason to be concerned that higher compensation levels may be increasing the cost of education for students. A May 2014 Institute for Policy Studies report examined the 25 public universities with the highest executive pay. What it found was that this executive pay and student debt, along with resources for faculty, “are closely related and should be addressed together in the future.” With over one trillion dollars in current student debt, more than what is owed on credit cards, we should be looking for ways to address this problem. Understanding the extent to which administrator compensation could be one of many causes of increased student debt is the first part in finding a solution.

Therefore, as the NCES works on future IPEDS surveys, we request that it ask for the salary and benefits of the school president and top three highest compensated paid personnel at each institution. For the reasons stated, doing so would provide valuable information for students, parents, and policymakers. Considering NCES already surveys these colleges and universities, this is also a cost-effective and common sense way to increase our knowledge in this area.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your timely response.