A recent report by the Sacramento Bee has shown that the number of University of California employees earning over $1 million per year has quadrupled in the span of five years to 22.
This figure marks a shocking statistic in light of recent budget cuts to the state's secondary education system and the looming specter of massive tuition increases.
Before everyone breaks out the pitchforks, the vast majority of these workers are either top doctors or administrators at UC hospitals, whose salaries are typically funded through hospital revenues and research grants instead of taxes or student tuition.
Rounding out the list were coaches at schools with large athletic programs. Far and away the top earner in the entire system is UC Berkeley head football coach Jeff Tedford, who takes home just under $2.9 million. Coming in second was UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland at $2.1 million, followed by UCLA surgery department chair Ronald Busuttil at a little shy of $2 million.
This breakdown of top earners in the system--primarily in the medical and athletic fields--is consistent with previous years.
It's also a very common practice for college athletic coaches to be the highest paid individuals at any given university. In 2011, 22 collegiate football coaches were paid more than Tedford.
The base pay of UC coaches only makes up a small portion of their overall salaries. Much of the rest comes from private donations and other outside activities, like giving speeches or hosting sports camps.
Overall, the UC's entire payroll grew by six percent over the past year to about $10.6 billion. Payroll costs comprise about half of the overall UC operating budget.
Despite the growth, a report on 2011 employee pay released by administrators this month argues that compensation for most UC employees still lags far behind that of their peers both in the private sector and public universities in other states.
"One result of years of declining and inadequate state support is that faculty and staff salaries continue to lag significantly behind market," the report argues. "With the exception of contractual obligations to union-represented employees, salary increases were either eliminated or sharply curtailed from 2008-09 through 2010-11."
This system-wide payment gap has existed for years. When the issue was studied in 2009, experts discovered that UC employees typically make ten percent less than their peers.
If voters fail to pass Governor Jerry Brown's plan in November, which would temporarily raise sales taxes and hike the top marginal rate for high earners, undergraduate tuition in the UC system could spike by as much as 20 percent. If the measure does become law, the UC Board of Regents has agreed to freeze both tuition and student fees.
These threatened rate hikes have caused an outcry among students and other UC community members. Last month, a number of student protestors at a Board of Regents meeting dressed as zombies because, as one UC Berkeley doctoral student explained, "the debt is killing us."
These budget woes have also affected admissions. In the California State University system, schools won't be accepting any new in-state doctoral students in the spring semester.
Some, however, will allow out-of-state applicants to enroll because those students pay considerably higher tuition.