In 2008 Kevin Mattson and Joseph Bernt complained in a piece they wrote for the American Association of University Professors that over the last decade college administrators’ salaries had grown to lavish proportions while faculty salaries stayed virtually the same.

For colleges with annual budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars the costs of buildings, scholarships and financial aid, and pensions and upkeep matter a whole lot more than the six-figure salaries of a few top officials. That being said, administrators’ compensation often seem a little peculiar. According to an article by Lisa Foderao in the New York Times:

In his 11 years as chancellor of the City University of New York, Matthew Goldstein has been credited with increasing enrollment, helping raise more than a billion dollars and restoring rigor and energy to a system that had seeped both for decades.

He has also received a series of raises that have nearly doubled his base salary. His total compensation package, which includes a $90,000 housing allowance, is now just over $600,000.

Goldestein received a nine percent raise last fall. At the same time, the state cut $104 million from CUNY’s budget. Protesting the cuts, Goldstein said that the “cuts in aid to the university that both the state and city are eyeing will seriously impair CUNY’s ability to meet the academic needs of its growing student body. “ In response, the university raised tuition 14 percent.

According to the Foderao article, “the CUNY trustees, who determined the raises, say Dr. Goldstein is worth” his salary. No doubt Goldstein’s job is very, very demanding and he’s clearly been very successful in his current position. When one starts to talk about $600,000 a year, however, “worth it” doesn’t really have any meaning. Someone who works for $600,000 can easily work just as well for $500,000 a year. David Paterson runs the entire state of New York for $179,000 a year. Barack Obama runs the entire country for $400,000 a year.

Goldstein’s salary, which seems to put him in the low end of the American super-rich (the top 1 percent of American workers), is by no means exceptional. The median salary for a public university administrator was $436,111 a year last year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

That’s fine, if CUNY can afford it, but this is his salary for running a system that, like many other institutions across the country, is struggling in the current economic climate. SUNY was explicitly created to “provide a chance for a solid education to those who have been denied that opportunity by our society,” poor and working-class New Yorkers. So is $600,000 a year worth it? It better be.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer