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Published: Thursday, 4/5/2012

Big bucks

Higher education is big business. Nowhere is that fact more evident than at Ohio State University, which last year handed out $25.6 million in bonuses to top employees. With families struggling to pay ever-rising college tuition, the practice is a dubious public relations move.

Ohio's seven major public colleges collectively spent $32 million to reward employees in 2011. The bulk of the gratitude was spread by OSU, which awarded bonuses of more than $1 million to seven employees, including five physicians at the OSU Medical Center and men's basketball coach Thad Matta. Twenty-one other employees received more than $100,000 each. That's nearly twice the thankfulness OSU felt in 2010.

The scale of OSU's appreciation surprised Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington. He told the Dayton Daily News he had "never seen anything like this."

Mr. Vedder said that largess on this scale "is not the norm in higher education." But it is, apparently, at OSU.

The university's president, Gordon Gee, is the highest-paid public college president in the nation. Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes' new head football coach, reportedly will receive about $4.4 million a year.

OSU points out, correctly, that its medical school and athletic department are self-supporting. But that fact likely will be lost on tuition-paying parents. Sometimes, appearances are everything.

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