Setting America’s Priorities for 2015

 

 

by Walter Brasch


Marci Rosenberg, a senior speech language pathologist at the University of Michigan, earns about $73,000 a year.

Desmond Patton, who studies the problems of gang violence, is a professor at the University of Michigan. He earns about $80,000 a year.

Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, who works with cerebral palsy children, is a professor at the University of Michigan. She earns about $136,000 a year.

Ursula Jakob, a molecular biologist who is working on proteins to unlock new disease cures, is a professor at the University of Michigan. She earns about $112,000 a year

Dan Habib works with children who have disabilities; Martha Bailey is doing research on the correlations between living in disadvantaged neighborhoods and criminal behavior; Jason DeBord, a musician, was an orchestra conductor for several Broadway plays. All are faculty members at the University of Michigan. They, like most of their colleagues, earn between $75,000 and $150,000. Several, most of whom teach in the schools of law and medicine, earn as much as two and three times the average wage of a University of Michigan professor.

Among the faculty are 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 members of the National Academy of Engineering, and 76 members of the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the arts, several have won Grammys and Emmys. Their salaries, justifiably, are more than the average wage in the country.

Jim Harbaugh, the newly-anointed head football coach at the University of Michigan, got a $2 million signing bonus, and will be paid $5 million a year for the first three years of a five-year contract. In the fourth and fifth years, he will receive $5.5 million; after the fifth year, he will earn another 10 percent salary boost, giving him about $6 million a year. In addition to his base salary and benefits, he will receive incentive bonuses. If his team becomes a Big 10 champion, he will earn an additional $250,000. A national championship guarantees him $500,000. He will probably earn at least several hundred thousand dollars more from endorsements.

Most faculty have doctorates; Harbaugh has a B.A. in communications from the University of Michigan. But, he has something no other faculty member has—he was a top college and NFL quarterback; when his playing years ended, he became one of the NFL’s most successful coaches. That, according to the administrators of one of the nation’s finest universities, assures him of a salary greater than any earned by a professor or university research scientist—at Michigan or anywhere else in the country.

But, even with his $5 million base salary, Harbaugh is still not as well-compensated as Nick Saban, head coach at the University of Alabama, who earned about $7.2 million last year or Mark Dantonio, head coach at Michigan State, who earned $5.6 million. Harbaugh’s $5 million base pay puts him in a tie for third place with coaches for the Universities of Oklahoma and Texas and Texas A & M, according to data compiled by USA Today. The lowest salary of any of the 128 Division I football teams goes to Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield who earned a paltry $225,000 this season, about three times the average salary of all the nation’s professors.

Penn State’s James Franklin earned $4.3 million base salary this year, eighth highest in the NCAA. It was about nine times greater than the final salary of legendary coach Joe Paterno, who thought $500,000 a year was about right for a Division I coach whose teams were often in bowl games, many which were in the Top 10 by the end of the season, and who had one of the highest graduation rates of any college coach.

Collegiate football players don’t receive salaries. They can earn money from work-study jobs, usually in the recreation or athletics departments, that average about 10 hours a week and pay about minimum wage. But, few first- and second-string players work during the Fall semester; their hours are filled with football and, sometimes, classes.

Almost every Division I player is on a scholarship. Tuition at the University of Michigan is $13,486–$18,000 a year for undergraduates, depending upon which school the student attends. Room and board, if living on campus, ranges from $16,928 to $27,116, depending upon accommodations. Add in a couple of thousand dollars more for books and study/research materials. The average debt of a graduate is about $26,000, according to the university.

The salaries of football coaches pale by comparison to what professional athletes and megacorporation executives earn. Basketballer Kobe Bryant earned $23 million last year. Of 412 pro basketball players, 340 earned more than $1 million a year. The minimum salary of a major league baseball player is $500,000; the average salary is $3.4 million, more than 15 times the average wages of board-certified family physicians. Zack Grienke, a pitcher, topped the charts with a $24 million salary. In pro football, eight quarterbacks each earned at least $18 million last season, with Aaron Rogers topping the NFL charts with a $22 million salary.

But even the sports stars’ salaries don’t match those of the Scrooge McDuck CEOs. The average CEO salary is about 380 times that of the average worker’s salary, according to data compiled by CNNMoney. This is the greatest wage gap in the world.

At least 80 CEOs each earned at least $20 million in wages and compensation last year, with the CEO of Cheniere Energy earning $141.9 million.

The average salary of a firefighter is about $43,000; for teachers, it’s about $45,000; for licensed clinical social workers, it’s about $51,000; for registered nurses, it’s about $56,000. For physical therapists, it’s about $65,000. For child care workers, it’s about $18,000, according to payscale.com.

What we pay our workers reflects what we, as a nation, consider to be our priorities. And our priorities certainly aren’t in the categories of helping or teaching others.
Dr. Brasch is professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. He is a syndicated columnist and radio commentator, and the author of 20 books. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth look at the effects of high volume horizontal fracturing.]

 

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About Walter Brasch

Columnist, author, journalism professor. Latest book is BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW: STORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION, a look at the couterculture from 1964, as seen through the eyes of a "flower child" who is now middle-aged--and of the reporter who covered her story. The book is available through Amazon.com . . . Check out website, www.walterbrasch.com for further info. Or, just write me: walterbrasch@gmail.com
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