Cal Poly’s president’s salary highest in the CSU

January 25, 2011

Jeffrey Armstrong

The California State University Board of Trustees approved a $350,000 yearly salary for incoming Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, making him the highest paid university president in the CSU system, at a board meeting on Tuesday night.

In addition to his salary, he is provided with housing.

Former Cal Poly President Warren Baker previously held the top paid president position at the CSU making $328,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Cal Poly has reduced its student body numbers because of budget constraints. At this time, university officials have not determined the number of applicants the university can admit in fall 2011, because the state will not provide budget numbers until February.


Who says Armstrong’s compensation is out of whack? I suspect it was set based on the free market demand and not by union negotiations as is the case for teachers/professors. Just what do top university professors earn? From Businessweek:

1. E. Gordon Gee

Ohio State University

Total annual compensation: $1,346,225

2. Mark. A. Emmert

University of Washington

Total annual compensation: $887,870

3. John T. Casteen III

University of Virginia

Total annual compensation: $797,048

4. Mark G. Yudof

University of Texas

Total annual compensation: $786,045

5. Mary Sue Coleman

University of Michigan (Armstrong’s former employer)

Total annual compensation: $760,196


Those are all PUBLIC universities by the way. Top private universities pay far more…


1. Ohio State University

ENDOWNMENT FUND (2010) ~$1.890 Billion

2. University of Washington

ENDOWNMENT FUND (2009) ~$1.60 Billion

3. University of Virginia

ENDOWNMENT FUND (2009) ~$3.57 Billion

4. University of Texas

ENDOWNMENT FUND (2009) ~$12.2 Billion

5. University of Michigan

ENDOWNMENT FUND (2009) ~$6.0 Billion

Cal Poly’s Endowment Fund…drum roll…$94 Million (with an M). My numbers might be off due to a hasty internet search, but the point is that there’s a big difference between being the president of one of the five schools you listed and Cal Poly (my Alma mater). Like I said before, I would have taken a slightly lower salary in an attempt to stay under the radar for a few months. Now, people might hold his feet to the fire.


So? Most of the president’s compensation doesn’t come from its endowment.



The size of a given institution’s endowment also is not indicative of how much effort and talent is required to lead said institution.

Wellesley College (for example) has something like a $1.25B endowment. I suspect Wellesley is far easier to administrate than Cal Poly.


“Free market demand”? The article CLEARLY states that President Armstrong’s salary is the highest in the CSU system; there is nothing “free market” about it, period. Apples to apples comparison shows that the new CP president is the highest paid as a base salary, and then you can also add in the additional $30,000 kicked in by the Foundation, the $1000 a month vehicle allowance and of course, the president’s residence on the Cal Poly campus all added together equals almost $400,000 a year at a time when we are all being told that the state needs to “cut expenses” and the tuition keeps rising each year. I agree with the suggestion made earlier that the new president should have come in with a lower salary to show he understands how the current economic situation is affecting most of us, and especially those who work at and attend Cal Poly. Too bad there wasn’t more thought put into how his salary would be perceived by most residents of California. But I guess when you live in an “Ivory Tower” you don’t have to concern yourself with what the “little people” think. It stinks.


It’s free market. That’s what it took to get Armstrong to come to SLO.

It’s not like he has a bargaining unit to artificially inflate his compensation level.


I don’t think that perhaps you understand how the “free market” is supposed to work; are you asserting that the Board of Trustees thought that Mr. Armstrong would not have wanted to take over at Cal Poly for anything less? Is your assertion that since the Board offered him this salary, that no one else was qualified? I agree with an earlier point someone made about how by offering this high salary to this CSU President, it will start pushing the salaries of others higher and higher. If you put any credence behind that assertion, how can you still believe that this was the “free market” ? Usually when the free market is being discussed, the theory is that be having non-regulated competition you get the result of having the best, least cost solution arrived at, OR you get the best and/or the brightest hired at the most competitive salary. It doesn’t make sense to me that Mr. Armstrong is going to be paid more than any other CSU president, ever; where is the competition in this scenario?


There is absolutely no question that at some level in the screening there was focused talk about compensation. In some cases possible applicants never applied because their demands where no where near what the job pays. In Armstrong’s case his demands were close enough to continue with the application process.

Was it a free market decision? It certainly seems to be. Yes I think Armstrong would have passed at a lower compensation level. How low is anyone’s guess — perhaps any lower whatsoever.

That said I have no idea how Armstrong will perform. If he doesn’t in fairly short order he would need to be out-processed — as with any new president. The one thing I did not care about in his agreement was his possible appointment as a full professor in Animal Science. So if he fails he “falls back” on being “just” a professor. That seems almost as if he is planning for failure yet no one else seems to have noticed.


And it is wrong to pay these people that kind of money, just because someone else is doing it does not make it right.


No, you’re wrong. If other universities pay this much for a president the caliber of Armstrong then that’s the going rate. Either pay up or do with less.


Interesting…Mr. Armstrong missed a good opportunity to earn some points with the local community right off the bat. If I was in his position, I would have negotiated a $275K salary (which is still a very nice sum) while making a point that I was purposely taking a lower salary than the outgoing dolt (Mr. Baker) given the state of the economy. Instead, he will now have to live up to the $350K, which will be resented by many staff, students and community members. I hope he is successful.


Dr. Baker was no “dolt.”


Hum…that is arguable…However, this is less so, BAKER IS AN A$$HOLE!!!

First hand experience :-)


There is always envy of the powerful and successful. Like him or not, Baker was a GREAT steward of Cal Poly.


Baker envy…good one. Sounds like you have a bit of a crush…

By the way, powerful and successful are not two adjectives that I associate with Baker. He interviewed unsuccessfully for years at various schools. It looks like others did not see him in the same light as you.


It sounds like you’re a rude jerk…

Baker did a good job. I’m not sure why that fact causes you so much pain but it’s amusing to watch…


“It sounds like you’re a rude jerk…” now, that is a compelling argument Crusader.

I am curious, why do you think that Baker did a good job?


Just responding to your nasty “Sounds like you have a bit of a crush…” If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

I think Baker did a good job for many reasons. Obviously the most visible is how he improved Cal Poly’s physical plant. Other CSU/UC campuses have changed very little during Baker’s tenure while Poly has absolutely blossomed.

He brings a lot of $$$ to the campus.

School curriculum has kept pace with the hiring world’s demands. He has cut redundant programs such as the old engineering technology program while allowing the engineering programs to keep their “hands-on” value and increase in number.

Despite what some feel is meager, Cal Poly’s endowment has grown and so have other sources of revenue for the university.

He has also provided a long and steady tenure at the top.

That’s just a taste.


Cal Poly has many mounumets under Baker. It did seem the emphasis changed drastically when Baker came on board (I’ve been at Cal Poly under McPhee, Kennedy & Baker). It became all about $$$$. Forget teaching, when you were hired, you were expected to hit the road looking for grants if you wanted a promotion. You had to spend more time doing “research” than teaching… a typical “university” attitude. Cal Poly was a great technical school, with a hands on approach.

Actually the philosophy changed when Cal Poly “changed” from a College to a University. For some reason admin thought we had to live up to the university image and become another Berkley, Stanford, etc. Too bad, they totally missed the point of what was the heart of Cal Poly.

Now it’s all virtual with several “computer labs” outside the computer science department where the closest a students get to a hands-on approach is the computer keyboard. Labs have been cut, lectures increased as a means of getting a bigger bang for the buck. More student/teacher contact hours in a 200 student lecture than a 24 student lab. Oh, I could say more, but those who have been in the trenches for many years know where I’m coming from.


It I am to believe US News and World Report, CPSLO remains one of the finest universities in the USA…


Complaining on the blogs is fine but now DO SOMETHING:

Submit your complaints and start speaking out where it really counts, It’s not difficult to make a difference and it isn’t any more time consuming than complaining on a blog.

Now get to it, PLEASE…


Cindy, your Url is missing characters and results in an error. An address that works is:

Unfortunately, the Trustees don’t want to allow emails, so it’s letter writing or phone calls to contact them.

The original resolution that passed (which shows actual compensation over $400,000/yr):

This item recommends that Dr. Jeffrey D. Armstrong receive an annual salary of $350,000 and an annual housing allowance or a university provided residence effective February 1, 2011, his starting date as president of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Additionally, Dr. Armstrong will receive an annual supplement of $30,000 from Cal Poly Foundation sources.

In accord with existing policy of the California State University, Dr. Armstrong will receive the following benefits:

• Reimbursement for actual, necessary and reasonable travel and relocation expenses in accordance with CSU policy at an amount to be authorized by the chancellor.

• Relocation of household goods and property from Okemos, Michigan, to California, an amount authorized by the chancellor. The university will provide temporary storage for Dr. Armstrong’s household furnishings and goods for 60 days, with the understanding that the chancellor may extend the storage period for an additional 30 days if necessary.

• Reimbursement for brokerage commissions, escrow fees, prepayment penalties, recording fee, grantor’s taxes and expenses incurred in the selling of the family residence in Michigan, an amount authorized by the chancellor.

• Temporary housing will be provided by the university for 60 days, and may be extended up to 30 additional days by the chancellor, if necessary, to allow Dr. Armstrong time to secure and occupy a permanent residence.

• Choice of a university-provided vehicle or a vehicle allowance of $1,000 per month.

• Standard benefit provisions afforded CSU executive classification employees.

• A transition program for university presidents, provided that Dr. Armstrong meets the eligibility requirements described in the Trustees’ resolution of November 15, 2006.

Dr. Armstrong will be eligible for appointment as professor of animal science with tenure at the discretion of appropriate faculty bodies of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Thanks Politik,

Sorry about my short link. Here is the one I meant to post, it goes to Gov Brown via e-mail. I think your link is excellent but if it’s a difference of sending an e-mail (easy thing to do) or doing nothing, then I would rather see someone at least send an e-mail. I’ll place a call to the phone contact indicated on the site you have provided.


WTF This is so out of line with common sense. Schools are laying off teachers and cutting programs. How do we throw these jerks out??


$350,000 for a University president paid from a state budget with a 24 billion dollar deficit. It’s all about money. This guy brought in $200 million in his former position. All Cal Poly sees in dollar signs (oh goody, maybe he can do the same for us). That’s why so many teachers spend so much time generating grants ; forget the teaching. BTW, actual in class time for most CP profs is less than 20 hours a week. We won’t get into the fact that Cal Poly Foundation skims 30%+ right off the top of each grant received… money that goes elsewhere and not to the project for which it was intended.


30% skim??? I wish! They’ve been leeching 42% indirect from our projects for the last couple years… makes it incredibly hard to land a grant.


He should be the poster person for “SLO is the happiest city in the US” slogon. Or the ” I’m totally ripping off the taxpayers and laughing all the way to the bank ” poster person. WHAT are they thinking???


This is unbelievable and unnecessary. I agree, the board should be embarrassed.


This is just stupid! Another arrogant tool out for themselves. Anybody with an once of integrity would take a higher road in our current economic environment. The board of trustees should be embarassed. (sigh!) When will this selfishness end? Never, I’m afraid with the likes of these people.


“The California State University Board of Trustees approved a $350,000 yearly salary …. Meanwhile, Cal Poly has reduced its student body numbers because of budget constraints.” Cause and effect?