Most UW-Madison students are aware that a certain amount of their tuition goes to segregated fees, but many do not understand exactly where that money goes. In addition to paying for the bus-pass program, prominent speakers and other student services, a percentage of those fees go to salaries of student leaders.
Student Leader Magazine publishes an annual survey that details salaries of student-government leaders across the nation.
As chair of next year’s ASM, Bryan Gadow will make $4,700, which is near the lower end of student-government salaries nationwide.
“It would be nice if I made more, but I am comfortable with what it is,” he said. “I’m here to serve the students.”
In contrast, the President of the Associated Students of Washington State University, Jesse Keene, makes $17,642 per year, far more than any other university.
“It’s been an issue here — it has come up,” Keene said in the report. “Our executives are among the top paid in the nation. It’s a responsibility of the office.”
However, even that salary pales in comparison with the salary of the student-government chair of Northeastern University in Massachusetts. The chair of that student-government association will make $24,888.95 next year. That money includes a tuition waver, a stipend, a scholarship and meal vouchers.
“The amount of input the student government has here is unprecedented,” President of Northeastern University Richard Schwabacher said. “It would be a lot more difficult to do what we do without this money.”
These high salaries do not exclude Wisconsin schools. The Student Government Association leader at Marquette University in Milwaukee has the second-highest wage in the country for private schools, at $20,480.
“On face value, this seems like an exorbitant level,” Marquette SGA President Luke Punzenberger said in the report. “But the investment in me and other officers are well worth the investment by the university. So far, we’re coming through on our part of the bargain.”
In addition to stipends, student leaders get paid in another way. At Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, the student-body president resides in a plush campus mansion. Many universities offer free meals, discounted tuition, credit hours or other perks.
Some student governments, such as Texas A&M University, one of the largest schools in the nation, have opted not to pay officers.
“It’s not a problem getting people to work without pay,” said Texas A&M SGA member Rodney Reed. “People actively seek out working in student government voluntarily.”
Many students leaders said they put in 40 or more hours per week, making their hourly wages quite low. Gadow said that although he makes about a dollar an hour, he would do it for free if necessary.
The highest-paid student leader in the United States disagreed.
“I think it would be difficult to do it for free,” Schwabacher said.
Gadow added that most students are unaware of how much work student-government leaders do.
“Students have no idea how much time we put in,” Gadow said.