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One College President's Bold Move to Save Students Money

When college presidents have to take measures to maintain the financial health of their institutions, many readers wouldn't be surprised to hear the results: cutting support staff, raising tuition or even eliminating some classes. But the president at Sierra Nevada College took a much different approach - he resigned so the school wouldn't have to pay his salary.

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By Jessica Lyons

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A Big Decision

Part of Sierra Nevada College President Richard Rubsamen's job involved making sure that his school could attain financial stability going forward. While looking at the numbers, Rubsamen, who first came to the college in June of 2010, decided that eliminating his own salary was the best course of action, and his resignation was announced on October 7, 2011. The actual amount of Rubsamen's salary has not been released.

'It was clear to me where reductions had to occur,' Rubsamen said in a statement that appeared in the online journal Inside Higher Ed. 'While the idea of leaving college is very difficult, it is the right thing to do. I need to lead by example and practice what we teach.'

The college's provost, Lynn Gillette, will succeed as president.

Additional Cuts

The elimination of Rubsamen's salary isn't the only cut that Sierra Nevada College has made. While none of the faculty members will face reductions in pay, local paper the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reported that there will be 5%-10% cuts to the salaries of administrators and other staff employees.

Sierra Nevada College Communications Director Julene Hunter told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, 'Everything we could do to protect that students was done.'

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A Sign of Desperate Times?

To some, resigning might seem like a pretty severe act of desperation to save a school some money, but Sierra Nevada assures everyone that they're doing well. 'Although it doesn't look like it, this is a very positive economic story of financial health of the college,' Gillette told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. The publication reported that enrollment has increased at Sierra Nevada by 110% since 2007. But, while revenues have certainly increased, so have the costs. Rubsamen's salary could now be used to pay for some of these costs, which might help protect students from tuition hikes.

A Noble Move

One can't help but commend Rubsamen's decision. There probably aren't too many people who would put the overall good of their institution ahead of themselves, giving up their salary and a job they enjoy so that others can benefit. Rubsamen appears to be the ideal educator - someone who values the success of a higher education institution above all else. And it's good to know that, when times do get tough, there are administrators who will strive to find alternatives to having students pay.

Sierra Nevada College isn't the only higher education institution trying to find extra money. Some colleges are imposing new fees on students to make up for reductions in state funding.

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