Budget cuts loom over UH for the next year and the foreseeable future, so the UH community must do what it can to prevent it from happening.
The average UH graduate leaves with $22,000 in debt, which is above the state average, and with tuition predicted to rise dramatically, this figure is likely to go up. Many UH employees are feeling the pressure too, with low pay, furloughs and a lack of job security.
These potential cuts will be tough on UH, but, if indeed they come, we need to make sure that the sacrifices made at our University are smart and equitable.
That means that students and lower-paid workers shouldn’t shoulder the burden alone; those most compensated by UH should make sacrifices too.
What defines a high-wage employee? There are different definitions and justifications for pay disparities, but for the context of this article, let’s find our definitions from the ratio of pay in our country.
In 2009, only 5.5 percent of the United States’ working population earned at least $100,000 per year. Since the economic recession has driven up unemployment and underemployment, these people may represent an even smaller percentage of population this year.
This portion of society is, by definition, more comfortable than the other 94.5 percent of wage earners, so we’ll call them comfortable for being in the elite eighteenth of the richest country in the world.
At our university, 521 employees make $100,000 or more annually, and therefore are in this category.
So, how much of the University’s budget is spent making these comfortable employees excessively comfortable?
If these 521 people’s salaries are pooled, and $100,000 is taken out of that pool and given to each of them to maintain comfortable employment, just over $21,000,000 per year is left (without taking away any benefits).
Budget cuts for UH are estimated to be $27-33 million per year, so this figure of more-than-comfortable pay amounts from 65 to 77 percent of the total estimated cuts.
The University of Texas Tech is cutting some high-paid positions to compensate for its budget cuts. Without advocating for anyone to lose their job, doesn’t it seem like a good chunk, if not the majority, of the budget cuts can be absorbed through cutting the pay of the most comfortable UH employees?
However, at the beginning of this school year, UH President Renu Khator, the highest-paid University employee, was awarded a $75,000 raise, which seems like a step in the opposite direction.
This was during the first round of budget cuts, so staff positions were eliminated — some UH workers faced pay cuts in the form of furloughs (forced time off), and tuition went up as well.
Those 521 people may not be able to make all of the sacrifices needed to survive the cuts, but they can certainly do more than they have so far.
Students who seek social justice have to make sure that those who can afford to take pay cuts share the burden, so that the most vulnerable at UH don’t have to take all of it.