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California higher education hangs in the balance as UC, Cal State search for new leaders

Teresa Watanabe and Nina Agrawal, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Past and present UC chancellors and Cal State presidents may also be considered.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said former legislators and governors should not be overlooked because educators who came up through the ranks are not always willing to shake up the status quo as needed. UC, he said, needs a leader willing to look at the system's at-times inefficient use of facilities and relatively light teaching loads.

For outside candidates, one potential sticking point could be pay. In 2018, Napolitano earned $627,000 in total compensation and White $493,000, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education database. Drake earned $1.2 million and Crow $1.1 million, two of 17 university leaders whose pay topped seven figures. Pay at top private universities is even higher.

"The challenge for all public universities is that many, many candidates view those (top) positions as patently unattractive," said Richard Chait, a Harvard University professor emeritus of higher education. "Public university presidents are embroiled in a thicket of politics, constantly in the crosshairs, and the money is not there."

But Robert Anderson, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, predicted plenty of candidates will be drawn to the California opportunities in order to make a difference in such a large, diverse state and "move the needle both nationally and globally."


"I really don't believe someone will come to this job for a paycheck," said Mitchell of the American Education Council. "The right person will come to this job for a mission and a legacy."

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