College president gives $90,000 of his salary to lowest-paid university workers

Raymond Burse, the newly appointed interim president of Kentucky State University, has taken generosity to a new level.

He has opted to have his yearly salary slashed from $349,869 to $259,745 to boost the wages of the university’s lowest-paid workers.

Burse’s self-imposed pay cut will increase the paychecks of 24 Kentucky State University (KSU) employees, some of whom were earning as little as $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage.

Felicia Lewis, a spokesperson at KSU, says in practice his decision to forgo $90,124.96 (a 25 percent salary cut) means no one at the university will earn less than $10.25 an hour.

“The board offered him one salary, and he accepted another,” Lewis told “He asked that the difference be paid to the lowest paid workers who were earning less than $10.25 an hour.”

“He has personal and administrative principles regarding pay equity,” she adds.

“This is not a publicity stunt,” Burse, 63, told the Herald-Leader. “You don’t give up $90,000 for publicity.”

“I did this for the people. This is something I’ve been thinking about from the very beginning,” Burse said.

“My whole thing is I don’t need to work,” he adds. “This is not a hobby, but in terms of the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale.”

Burse was appointed interim president at the Frankfort school in June after former President, Mary Sias, retired in May. He is expected hold the position for 12 months while the board seeks a permanent replacement.

The decision to increase the hourly minimum wage to $10.25 for all university employees is expected to continue beyond Burse’s tenure. It will be the rate for all new employees. The change is immediate.

Kentucky’s state legislature considered a bill this year that would have increased the state’s minimum wage to $10.10, but the measure failed in the state senate.

Still, Burse says his selfless gesture isn’t a ploy to influence other university presidents to follow suit. “I was in a position where I could do that,” he said. “That is not always the case.”

This is not the first time Burse has been at the helm of a university. He served as KSU’s president from 1982 to 1989.  After his presidency, Burse held executive positions at General Electric Co. He retired in 2012 after 17 years.

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