In the past, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a limit on executive pay because he believed that the UC and CSU systems needed some flexibility when competing to attract talent. The same proposal may now go before Gov. Jerry Brown, who has decided he wants to stop executive pay increases at San Diego State.
Like on CSU and UC campuses across the state, students attending freshman orientation at Sacramento State University are worried about whether they can afford to graduate, given the two tuition hikes just in the past year alone.
The increases come on the heels of six-figure salary bumps: The new San Diego State President, Elliot Hirschman, is making $100,000 more than his predecessor and the CEO of UCSF Medical Center, Mark Laret, got a $200,000 raise, plus a million dollar retention bonus over four years.
"This is my first year in college and I already had to take out two loans," freshman Marcella Lucas said. "That concerns me because in the future, if they're getting raises and more raises, that means I might have to take out more loans and that's going to put me in further debt."
Yee is trying to put the brakes on executive raises, re-introducing a bill that would ban pay hikes at public universities during bad budget years. He's hoping to send a clear message.
"You ought to focus on why you are here, why you're in the position you are; and that is to help our students become the very best, not for you get rich," Yee said.
Both UC and CSU say they have not yet analyzed the Senator's proposal, but just last week, a Cal State spokesperson said tuition hikes are due to state budget cuts, not executive salaries.
They also need to be able to recruit and retain the best people.
"The presidents, as a whole for the entire system, their salaries are actually lagging about 52 percent for comparable institutions," Kim Nava said.
Still, parents of CSU students say it's time to end the salary increases, especially when they are not getting any.
"For them to get a pay raise and we're here spending extra money to pay for our kids, struggling to pay for our kids for school, it's not fair, that's not fair," CSU parent Kyuna Gonzalez said.
The U.S. Department of Education produced a new list this month of the colleges with the fastest rising tuition. All but one CSu campus (Sonoma State) made the list.