Double-digit raises for presidents of the state university system? Something’s wrong here. But it’s complicated. The real problem is that misguided federal government policies are pricing California’s public universities out of the market when it comes to salaries for university presidents, deans, faculty members and others. Almost nobody notices what’s going on until California State University trustees try to put the system on a more competitive level. That’s what happened last week, when the board gave 26 top CSU executives pay raises averaging 11.8percent. CSU Dominguez Hills President Mildred Garcia will not receive a pay hike, however, because she is a new hire. In this case, you might say that some universities have figured out how to game the system. For example, when a state government cuts its support, the state university just jacks up tuition and then looks to the federal government to match the increase with grants and guaranteed student loans. When that works, then comes even higher tuition that pays for higher and higher salaries for faculty, deans and presidents. The costs simply get passed along to students, often in the form of financially crippling loans. Universities that struggle to keep tuition low soon find they can’t compete for many of the best qualified candidates for jobs on the faculty or in management, including presidents. California’s state universities, and to a lesser extent the UC system, are among those trying to keep tuition low. At Cal State Dominguez Hills, tuition and fees amount to about $3,400, which is far under the national average. Of the costs of educating a student, only 20 percent comes from tuition and fees, compared to the national average of 35 percent. When that formula isn’t rich enough, the high-tuition campuses pull in out-of-state students, who pay even more. Also, at a university with very high tuition, such as Harvard, grants and loans are based on a “sticker price” of $44,000, when the average is only $28,000. A parent paying $44,000 must feel like it’s the sucker price, and so should the feds. Campuses with the high sticker prices win two ways. Not only does the revenue pour in, but some parents believe the high prices must mean high quality, and they line up to pay more. Some of that growing gusher goes to recruit faculty, deans and presidents with salaries that go as high as a million dollars a year. California can’t play in that league. This system needs fixing. As it happens, Cal State Long Beach’s president, F. King Alexander, has become a leader in a national effort to bring more fairness to the system. If he can help pull that off, he will be worth far more to California than those recent pay increases.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!