President Covino’s annual salary raised by 29%


California State University

The California State University Board of Trustees Photographed left to right, starting in the top right corner, Adam Day, Christopher J. Steinhauser, Douglas Faigin, Debra Farar, Hugo N. Morales, Jack McGrory, Jane Carney, Jean P. Firstenberg, Juan F. Garcia, Larry Adamson, Lateefah Simon, Lillian Kimbell, Peter J. Taylor, Rebecca Eisen, Roman Sabalius, Silas Abrego, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, and Wenda Fong.

Cal State LA’s president, William Covino, is seeing a new bump in his salary. As of July 2022, Covino’s new salary is $451,103, an increase of over $100,000 from his previous pay of $348,423.

The raise came as a result of two 10% equity adjustments, according to Hazel J. Kelly, public affairs manager of the chancellor’s office at California State University (CSU).

The 29% raise is an increase from the original raise, which was projected to be 27% because of compound interest. This means each percentage increase was based on the adjusted amount before it.

The decision was “concurrent with the completion of [Covino’s] successful triennial performance review in 2020, and an additional 10% adjustment in 2021,” Kelly said. “These increases were delayed in 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic.”

Kelly said a 7% “merit increase” is also part of Covino’s new salary, which is an additional increase aligned with all CSU employees.

The CSU Board of Trustees divides campuses into three peer groups (A, B, and C) “based on university size and market,” Kelly said. Cal State LA is part of Group A and CSUs like Northridge, San Francisco, and five others.

Covino’s salary was lower than the peer group median (and still is, at around 10% below), which influenced the compensation increase. Because of this, Kelly said, “the trustees proposed that he receive two 10% market equity increases over two years to bring him closer to the median.”

Notes in the CSU Board of Trustees July 2022 meeting agenda state that the target salary for a CSU president is the median of their peer group. Some professors aren’t pleased with the president’s pay raise to reach the median salary.

In 2022, ​​Cal State LA’s faculty saw a 3% raise, “and how much is Covino getting?” said Robert Weide, a Cal State LA associate professor. “His raise is more than what I make. It’s crazy.”

Recently, Cal State LA non-faculty employees also missed a major opportunity for better pay.

In September 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 410, which would have required CSU to employ a “merit nine-step salary system” for staff who are not professors.

In the wake of the veto, the CSU Employees Union sent out a newsletter that said SB-410 “would have helped fix the CSU’s broken salary structure for CSU support staff.” 

The funding for this compensation increase is taken from CSU’s operating fund, and Kelly said, “the salaries do not impact [Cal State LA’s] budget.” 

“If one were to combine the salaries for all CSU executives, it would total about $12 million, representing just 15% of the entire $8 billion operating budget,” Kelly said.

Covino’s retirement is set for the end of the 2022-2023 academic year, and the recent pay increase will have an effect on his pension. 

CSU employees are part of CalPERS, a retirement system for public workers.

“Like all CSU employees who are vested and part of CalPERS, his final compensation will be part of the calculation that determines his pension,” Kelly said.

Weide expressed concern about the timing of the president’s raise.

“It’s not just about Covino getting $100,000 more right now,” Weide said. “The CSU’s on the hook to pay him proportionally on his pension for the rest of his life.”

“If this isn’t obviously corrupt, I don’t know what is,” Weide said. “It seems like a hijacking of public money for personal interest.”

Despite several emails and phone calls, President Covino and his staff could not be reached for comment.