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Letter to the editor: CEO of the New American University — Crow's $1.1 million compensation

Crow's October 2021 pay raise shows his prioritization of money over student betterment, making ASU seem more like a business than an educational institution

Letter to the editor graphic

"Dear State Press, you've got mail." Illustration published on Friday, March 3, 2017.  

In September 2021, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) unanimously approved an 8% salary raise for President Michael Crow, whose salary now stands at just over $770,000. He also accepted payments of $70,000 for housing, $10,000 for transportation and $50,000 for reaching certain goals. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Crow's pay reaches nearly $1.1 million, making him one of the highest compensated university administrators in the country.

ABOR accepted no questions or comments at the meeting when the raise was approved, which reflects just how ordinary this pay increase is treated, raising questions about the extent to which ASU is not a university, but a veritable corporation with a corporate board and investors.

Crow pioneered the idea of a New American University. He largely succeeded; ASU, regarded as a party school in the past, is now hailed as a research powerhouse — and yes, we are No. 1 in innovation.

The ASU charter holds dear the promise of access, claiming the University is to be measured "not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include." It also claims to assume "fundamental responsibility" for the economic health of the communities it serves.

However, according to U.S. News, the median federal student loan debt among ASU students is $20,278. Despite this being lower than the $37,113 federal average, which includes students attending expensive private universities, Crow's salary is about 38 times the average ASU student's debt — and this does not account for students who take out private loans. Does Crow's CEO-like pay reasonably further the economic health of our communities?

Given the economic insecurity prompted by a deadly, once-in-a-century pandemic, the answer is a resounding no. 

Students are hamstrung by competing needs such as meals, housing and other expenses. The invisible threat of COVID-19 only heightens anxiety and uncertainty about academic and extracurricular performance. While the decision not to raise tuition for 2021-22 is welcome, no commitment has been rendered to locking tuition rates in the future.

Crow can receive up to $35,000 in additional bonuses if he accomplishes more goals in the next three years. With inflation at a 39-year high, expect angry students if there is a proposed tuition raise for the next academic year.

The Arizona Constitution holds that college should be "as nearly free as possible." Nevertheless, Arizona has seen historic increases in tuition since 2008. 

ABOR should lock Crow's salary at the current rate until they make good on the constitutional promise of near-free college. ASU's economic responsibility to the community, as outlined by the charter, is far more important than goals like student enrollment. Keeping students financially healthy will pay dividends in terms of alumni donations post-graduation; we are more likely to donate if we incur less debt.

Paying Crow a reasonable salary not only adheres to the economic responsibility outlined in the ASU charter and Arizona Constitution, but it reinforces that the president is not a CEO. ASU's unique emphasis on access sets the University apart. Why, then, should the president associate himself with an image not of equity but greed? After all, doesn't such an image deny this promise?

Non-profits such as the Arizona Student Association are doing a fine job of advocating for the interests of students in the Legislature. Remember: ABOR and the Crow's office make decisions that impact your education daily. Student debt, tuition costs and Crow's pay are affairs for which you may voice opinions and concerns. The University depends upon your contribution, so please do not remain silent.

President Crow's seven-figure income transgresses the inclusion and economic responsibility clauses of the ASU charter. If ABOR continues to unquestionably raise his pay to new mountainous tops, then ASU will be a New American University in name only.

Editor’s Note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. This letter to the editor was submitted by Sami Al-Asady.

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