The board had been set to approve the administration's recommended salary of $421,500 for Timothy P. White, the current president of Cal State-Riverside who is slated to replace retiring Chancellor Charles Reed on Dec. 31. The amount was the same that Reed currently earns.
But in a letter to the board, White requested a 10 percent pay cut, saying it was his contribution to help the 23-campus system's ailing finances.
The board instead approved a $380,000 state-funded salary. The rest of the compensation package remained the same—a $30,000 salary supplement comprising privately raised funds from the California State University Foundation and a $1,000 monthly vehicle allowance. White will live in the chancellor's residence in Long Beach.
White's move immediately garnered kudos. Executive compensation has been a sensitive topic at CSU over the past year as the board has granted 10 percent pay raises to a slew of new campus presidents at a time when students and faculty were reeling from tuition hikes, reduced enrollment and layoffs.
The 427,000-student system has lost about $800 million in state funds over the past four years.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a frequent board critic, lauded White's move as an important symbolic gesture of commitment to students.
"For too long, the CSU administration has been more focused on enriching their executives than on the betterment of the university as a whole," the San Francisco Democrat said in a statement. "Fortunately, Chancellor White appears to have a different set of values."
The board also approved a $4.5 billion budget for 2013-14 that includes a request to the state Legislature for $372 million in additional public funds.
The spending plan calls for increasing enrollment by 5 percent, or 20,000 students, as well as funding additional courses for current students.
"This budget request is a genuine reflection of the fiscal needs of the university, but moderated by the reality of the state's fiscal challenges," said Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor for budget.
Increasing enrollment will cost about $156 million, and will generate about $70 million in revenue.
The budget also includes $86.3 million to give 3 percent raises to faculty and staff, subject to labor contracts, and $50 million for urgent maintenance needs.