Student execs are being paid what?

Alberta student leaders to get 28.5% raise

The other day, I caught a item in The Gateway, the University of Alberta’s newspaper, about student union executives having their pay raised from $25,668 to $33,000, or by 28.5 per cent. Unsurprisingly, the article had more than its usual share of online comments from students.

Last year, On Campus compiled many of the student executive salaries across the country, and they varied between $20,000 and $35,000, often with very little correlation between the university in question and the amount of money/number of students they governed.

It’s fair for student leaders to think they deserve more money—they work long hours and are in charge of millions of dollars. They’re comparing themselves to executives of other organizations of similar budgets.

But students compare them to, well, students. Students who also have to work jobs and take classes at the same time, and who often don’t see the same benefits coming from their student union as other places they pay fees to—like their actual tuition dollars.

Much like university president salaries, student executive salaries are a hot-button issue, especially during times of relative economic hardship, because of the general gut reaction of “My Money Is Going Where?” At the same time, student union leaders tend to think that what they do is very, very important, and of course they deserve to be fairly compensated. Unsurprisingly, this creates tension, rarely of the productive type.

For example, at UVic, the student society realized they were in a financial crisis, the executive did what they could to reduce their salaries, held a referendum to increase student fees, and it passed.

At UBC however, the student executive of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) announced they were in financial trouble, only to ask for a $1,200 yearly health benefit package for themselves within the budget. Shockingly (at least to them), council took a month to pass their budget (though they got their health benefits), and the student body at large was so against a proposed referendum on increasing student fees to help the AMS’ finances that they postponed it until the new year. I’m not at UVic, and I don’t know how much impact the symbolic salary decrease had at that campus—but it is a line-item in the budget which always arouses tension, regardless of what province you happen to reside in.

Student execs are being paid what?

  1. Here in Waterloo, our student union execs are raking it in in the early 40k area. I’m a lil surprised at how low the renumeration is at other places.

  2. That’s only because at Waterloo the Feds execs are obscenely overpaid. I was actually at the meeting when they approved the exorbitant increases, and I was disgusted with the display of entitlement and self-righteous greed. The argument was that Feds salaries should be increased by 40+% since the average salary in Waterloo is so high – as if student functionaries playing pretend politics deserve salaries which go along with professional qualifications and experience.

  3. For what they do, 20,000-35,000 isn’t a whole lot. I know most execs at my university put in a lot of extra hours – one of them told me that he once kept track of how many hours he actually worked for a couple weeks and figured out what his hourly wage was – it was less than minimum. Most student union executives simply don’t have time to balance class and work, so they take very few, if any, classes. Add to that that they’re probably delaying their graduation by a year, meaning they’re forgoing a year’s salary at whatever they would be making post-graduation, and you figure that that salaries in the 20-35k range aren’t exorbiant by any stretch of the imagination.

  4. I appreciate that others understand how overpaid the Exec are at Feds from University of Waterloo. They tend to take a pay cut when transitioning to the actual productive workforce, because they are paid more than median income in Canada. It’s outrageous.

  5. Perhaps if they were paid only 20k I’d agree, but they’re paid twice that. And forgive me for being unsympathetic to their plight, but lots of people work long hours for low wages. First-year resident physicians don’t make much more and typically do 1 in 4 call with considerably greater responsibility, training, and qualifications. As a third-year student I work around 50 hours per week plus call (may work out to as much as 80-90 hours), and my stipend is about $2800 for 52 weeks. If student politicians are unable to balance their academic work with their student union “work”, they should re-examine their priorities and adjust accordingly.

  6. Can someone explain to me what the responsibilities are of these student leaders? I’ve never heard of student leaders being paid this much.

  7. This is a difficult topic to deal with, but one that is also of huge importance to student associations in Canada. Student associations live and die by the quality of student executives that they attract, and I can say that good execs in a good organization make a big difference for students on their campus. So given that quality is important, there’s a temptation to try and buy quality; the “if you pay it, they will come” theory. This doesn’t work that well and there’s no correlation that could be drawn in Canada between exec pay and quality.

    So the populist temptation here is to underpay execs. But that also comes with drawbacks. It means that only students who don’t care about money will be able to run, and it is my observation that students who don’t have to care about money are those who already have enough. By underpaying, you make it so that the students who can most easily run are those whose parents pay their tuition. It’s the same reason that MPs aren’t volunteers. Sure, you’d get people willing to sacrifice themselves to serve, but you’d make it very difficult for candidates who aren’t financially independent to run.

    Money should never be the reason anyone runs for a student election. But it also shouldn’t be the reason that a good, passionate candidate decides he/she won’t be able to run.

    Also, the average income for non-elderly, unattached earners in Canada is $43 000. And $51 500 in Alberta.

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