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Report Number: 2016-122

California State University
Stronger Oversight Is Needed for Hiring and Compensating Management Personnel and for Monitoring Campus Budgets



The mission of the California State University (CSU) includes advancing and extending knowledge, learning, and culture throughout the State and providing opportunities for individuals to develop intellectually, personally, and professionally by offering bachelor’s and advanced degrees. With approximately 474,600 students and more than 49,000 faculty and staff at 23 campuses, CSU is the nation’s largest system of public higher education. We visited the CSU Office of the Chancellor (Chancellor’s Office) and six campuses as part of this audit: California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton); California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA); San Diego State University (San Diego State); San Francisco State University (San Francisco State); California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo); and Sonoma State University (Sonoma State).

CSU Organization and Staffing

CSU is governed by its 25‑member Board of Trustees (board). The board adopts rules, regulations, and policies for the university system and has authority over curriculum development, use of property, development of facilities, and management of fiscal and human resources. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, speaker of the Assembly, state superintendent of public instruction, and chancellor of the university are ex‑officio trustees. CSU’s Alumni Council appoints an alumni trustee, and the Governor appoints the remaining 19 trustees, including a faculty trustee and two student trustees. The board meets six times a year, and its meetings provide an opportunity for communication among the trustees, chancellor, campus presidents, executive committee members of the statewide Academic Senate, representatives of the California State Student Association, and officers of the statewide Alumni Council. Meetings are open to public participation.

CSU Executives

Thirty executives serve the university system. The chief executive officer is the chancellor, who is appointed by and reports to the board. The chancellor is advised by the Executive Council, which is composed of the 23 campus presidents. The chancellor is responsible for leading the university system, helping campuses carry out CSU’s mission, coordinating systemwide functions, and representing the university system to state and national policy makers.

The chancellor also appoints three executive vice chancellors and two vice chancellors. CSU established a third vice chancellor position in February 2014: the vice chancellor and chief audit officer position, which reports directly to the board. Together, the chancellor, executive vice chancellors, vice chancellors, and senior staff coordinate systemwide efforts in areas such as academic affairs, business affairs, technology, physical plant development, employee relations, state and federal governmental affairs, legal affairs, audit and advisory services, and university advancement and communications.

Campus presidents serve as chief executive officers of their respective campus and are the primary liaisons between campuses and surrounding communities. Presidents report to the chancellor and are responsible for managing campus operations, planning for future needs, fundraising, setting campus priorities, and overseeing the hiring of faculty and staff.

CSU Employees

CSU’s workforce includes several categories of employees needed to operate the campuses. These employee groups are as follows:

Figure 1 depicts the number and compensation of executives, management personnel, faculty, and nonfaculty support staff in fiscal year 2015–16.

Figure 1
Employee Groups Vary in Their Size and Total Compensation
Fiscal Year 2015–16

Figure 1 shows 2 pie charts of total full-time equivalent staff and total compensation in fiscal year 2015–16.

Source: California State Auditor's analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller’s Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.

CSU categorizes its management personnel in two ways: by classification levels and by job categories. Its classification levels establish four broad salary ranges, and CSU uses this classification system to comply with federal and state reporting requirements as well as to address campus and systemwide reporting needs. Hiring authorities at the Chancellor’s Office and campuses categorize each management employee as an administrator, supervisor, or professional based on the responsibilities to be performed. For example, CSU might classify a dean (a position title in the administrator job category) as an administrator III, earning a salary between $4,948 and $13,743 per month. Administrators and professionals made up more than 80 percent of all management personnel in 2016, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Administrators and Professionals Comprised More Than 80 Percent of Management Personnel in 2016

Figure 2 is a pie chart showing the proportion of management personnel that are administrators, professionals, and supervisors in 2016.

Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of an unaudited report from the Personnel/Payroll Information Management System provided by California State University’s vice chancellor of human resources.

CSU Funding

CSU’s funding includes key sources such as state appropriations, student tuition and fees, grants and gifts, sales and services relating to educational activities and auxiliary enterprises, and investment income. Figure 3 summarizes the amounts and proportions of CSU’s key funding sources for fiscal year 2015–16.

Figure 3
California State University Had Five Key Revenue Sources in Fiscal Year 2015–16 (In Millions)

Figure 3 is a pie chart showing the major sources of revenue for CSU during fiscal year 2015-16.

Source: California State University’s (CSU) audited financial statements, fiscal year 2015–16.

* The Other category consists of other revenues, gifts, investment income, sales and services of educational activities, nongovernmental and other financial aid grants, nongovernmental grants and contracts, local grants and contracts, local financial aid grants, and endowment income.

According to CSU, it practices incremental budgeting, in which year‑to‑year changes in campus operating budgets result from increases or decreases in funding that the State authorizes. Appropriations from the State’s General Fund flow from the State to the university; the Chancellor’s Office then allocates funds to the campuses, which in turn allocate funds to their divisions and departments.

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