Demonstrators gather during a nationwide strike and protest at fast food restaurants to raise the minimum hourly wage New York, December 5, 2013.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

University president gives up $90,000 of salary to raise workers’ wages


One southern university administrator has agreed to take a major slash in his pay so other workers can earn additional income.

Raymond Burse, the interim president of Kentucky State University, recently gave up more than $90,000 of his salary so 24 employees earning the state’s $7.25 minimum wage could collect $10.25 per hour. The minimum wage rate in Kentucky is the same as the federal amount, which took effect on July 24, 2009.

The university confirmed the salary decrease with msnbc on Wednesday, but Burse wasn’t available for comment. He told local reporters that his action wasn’t “a publicity stunt,” but rather a decision “for the people.”

Because Burse is serving in an interim position, he did not have a previous recent salary with the educational establishment. His contract includes an annual income of $259,744, according to a release from the university. The Kentucky State University Board of Regents originally offered him yearly earnings of $349,869 before Burse requested a change to provide additional funds to the two dozen workers.

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Burse, a former KSU president, began serving as the interim leader of the establishment on July 1. He replaced former President Mary Evans Sias, who held the position for 10 years until her retirement on June 30.

Burse’s appointment will end June 2015, or as soon as the university selects a permanent president. Burse became an executive at General Electric Company after serving as KSU president from 1982 to 1989. He retired from the corporation in 2012.

Burse said the individuals’ paycheck boost will remain after his tenure ends.

His action comes amid a national debate about raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The U.S. Senate in April failed to pass a Democratic bill to increase the rate. Three states — Arkansas, Georgia, and Wyoming — currently have minimum wage amounts lower than the federal level.

President Barack Obama earlier this year signed an executive order into action that mandates all federally contracted employees earn at least $10.10 per hour beginning in 2015. The president and other Democrats have been pushing to raise the rate, but Republicans won’t budge. Some lawmakers are attempting to live on $77 per week as part of a challenge to gauge the potential difficulties of surviving on the federal minimum wage.

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University president gives up $90,000 of salary to raise workers' wages