Cal Poly administrators working to divorce the state

November 18, 2011


UPDATE: Public Relations spokesperson Stacia Momburg said the university is denying Provost Robert Koob said the university is working to privatize. In addition, she said he did not say they plan to have students teach classes as part of the plan. There were 50 people at the luncheon including A CalCoastNews reporter. Several attendees confirmed earlier that Koob said the university was working to privatize and explained that students would teach classes as a way of implementing plans.

ORIGINAL: California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo is planning to change its affiliation with the CSU system, Provost Robert Koob said Wednesday at a Retired Faculty Association luncheon. Koob told attendees the administration is working to privatize the university.

It would be the first time a CSU school has turned away from the state.

Critics are raising questions about how the university will be able to take state property as it becomes a private corporation, what will happen to faculty and staff retirement accounts, and the direction the university will take as a private institution.

“Cal Poly is on its way to becoming a private university,” Koob said. “That is where much of the nation is going and that is where Cal Poly is going.”

This is Cal Poly’s response to cuts in state funding. Currently, the university relies upon private funding and tuition for more than half of its budget and President Jeffrey Armstrong has said on a number of occasions the university needs to look to new models to raise money for its operations.

Privatization attempts throughout the nation include semi-privatization with campuses having the ability to set tuition levels and then keep the earnings, investments from private industry, and privatization through legislature. Cal Poly has not yet disclosed how it plans to privatize.

Several national attempts at semi-privatization have resulted in higher tuition costs such as at Penn State which is ranked the least affordable public campus in the United States.

Not all attempts have been successful. Miami University of Ohio was the first U.S. university to adopt the tuition model. in 2004 under a campus run tuition base, tuition more than doubled from $11,000 to $23,000. By 2008, dwindling enrollment forced the university to abandon its attempt to privatize.

At Wednesday’s luncheon, Koob touted Cal Poly’s more than 75 percent graduation rate which he said was 18 percent higher than any other campus in the CSU system. He lamented that the cost of higher education is going up while state funding is dwindling.

“When students say I am paying more and getting less that is because they are,” Koob said

When asked how Cal Poly could afford to let go of the 41 percent of the campus’ operating budget paid by the state, Koob said that the university’s sustainable resource is its students. Higher level students would learn through teaching classes.

“To really understand something you have to teach it,’ Koob said. “They can add to the workforce which is being disseminated. The union won’t like it.”

Tim O’Keefe, a political action chair for the local California Faculty Association and a member of the Retired Faculty Association who attended the luncheon did not agree with Koob’s plan to corporatize the university.

“Of course we don’t like it,” O’Keefe said. “The idea of using undergraduate students to teach undergraduate students is crazy.”

Because of Koob’s history of supporting the CSU administration, O’Keefe said he thinks this is a larger effort to privatize the CSU system.

“I think what Koob said was honest and an admission that corporatization is a goal of Cal Poly and the CSU system so they can privatize and make money on the campuses,” he said.

Numerous requests for comment to the CSU Chancellor’s Office were not returned.

Faculty and staff at Cal Poly rely on CalPERS to provide retirement and health benefits. CalPERS information officer Amy Norris said that if a public facility terminates its public status, the employees’ accrued benefits are safe.

“Pension benefits are a vested right,” Norris said. “Cal Poly employees that are CalPERS members are guaranteed currently accrued benefits upon retirement.”

Last week, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong signed an agreement to place a Cal Poly campus in China in a move projected to be a financial bonus for the university, several administration sources told CalCoastNews. Other than to confirm that there are talks of an overseas campus, Koob did not elaborate.

“There in no plan, there is lots of talk,” Koob said.

Critics warn that university privatization generally results in much higher tuition costs, less transparency, and fewer low and middle-income students. Also, critics contend research selections can be clouded by financial interests.



  1. rogerfreberg says:

    Step back for a moment :

    1) Why is Cal Poly so ‘defensive?’

    Unfortunately, I have seen precious little in the area of ‘transparency’ up to now from Cal Poly… will January 2012 paint a different picture when the Foundations have to open up their books?

    2) Why is there so much ‘talk’ … if it all is so ‘impossible?’

    For example, Are you aware that there is a “24th campus” in the works? This is a completely on-line version of the CSU … impossible you say? Yesterday it was impossible…but not today.

    How many campuses will be closed or ‘privatized’ to reduce the state budget?

    3) In my not so humble opinion, Cal Poly’s Public Relations and Crisis Management strategies aren’t serving them well. It’s a unusual concept… but honesty and consistency usually get you over a lot of problems. Getting folks to fight your battles on-line is dishonest and unethical. Cal Poly 2.0 is a long way from reality.

    4) Does anyone really really think these decisions are being made at Cal Poly’s level? They may have input… but…

    I don’t think Robert Koob and company responded well.

    (16) 20 Total Votes - 18 up - 2 down
  2. Citizen says:

    From time to time Cal Poly gets a big head and talks about privatization. Unless the state cuts them loose with all the university buildings etc, it is impossible. Cal Poly does not have the rich and super rich alumni base to accomplish this by itself, and guess what, Cal Poly is not better than all the other CSUs. Students apply here for many reasons, not just for the quality of the school.

    I hope the mistakes made by other CSU’s and by Cal Poly itself are carefully noted before the China campus is established.

    (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
  3. jimmy_me says:

    Koob’s words said it best: “There in no plan, there is lots of talk.” This statement outlines the arrogance of Cal Poly administration. The admin is so incredibly out of touch with reality; they seem to have forgotten that Cal Poly is not theirs to “talk about” amongst themselves. Talk is great, but talk such as this needs to be public because Cal Poly is a public institution.

    In the end, Cal Poly’s top-heavy, clueless bureaucracy got to where it is today by promoting those who support their plans. Cal Poly earned it’s reputation by the hard work and dedication of the rank and file teachers there; Cal Poly administrators seem to think they actually had something to do with it and have no qualms about taking credit for it. I have no doubt the admin feel they are doing “God’s work”. Anyone who works at Cal Poly and is not afraid to speak the truth could easily generate a long list of stupid and ugly deeds sponsored by the admin. I would guess that CCN is thankful to the Cal Poly administrators for making their stories so easy to write.

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      jimmy_me, there is much truth in what you say.

      Some questions, though, regarding your comment,

      “Talk is great, but talk such as this needs to be public because Cal Poly is a public institution.”

      >Why so much secrecy in a “public institution”?
      >Is making a school a “public institution” a guarantee of “transparency”?
      >Does taking the “profit motive” out of a school make that school better/more productive/more enlightened/more desireable?
      >Can the field of education defy the laws of economics? That is, can public schools outproduce private schools?
      >Do people who attend public schools have more enlightened motives than people who attend private schools?

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  4. JordanJ says:

    Regarding the attempted retraction or correction by Cal Poly “Public Relations spokesperson Stacia Momburg”

    Welcome to the real world Sracia Momburg. CCN is around and unlike the Tribune, you can’t tell CCN what you want them to write. Let this be a lesson to the CP staff and Administrators to say what you mean and mean what you say because CCN will tell it like it is whether you like it or not. It’s called truth first and advertising $$ second.

    I wonder if this has put Bill Blevins in a difficult situation?

    (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down
  5. democracy_needs_journalism says:

    Here’s a link to Mustang Daily’s article with more recent comments from Koob:

    (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
  6. The Gimlet Eye says:

    I don’t know what has motivated these Cal Poly folks to consider privatizing, but I can think of some things. How about falling revenue from the state? No future in government education?

    At any rate, there are VERY few things, if any, that the free market cannot do better than government. Education is certainly NOT one of those things. Get the gd government OUT of the education business and things will improve to no end.

    But why stop there? Privatize the whole CSU system and then let it compete with the UC’s and then we’ll see what’s what.

    All education needs is a real free market. Competition will eventually force prices down and the pretenders out of business. But this process will take time for the market to mature and fine tune itself so that it can meet supply and demand. Time is often the forgotten factor in economics.

    Some of you speak of education as if it were a “static” entity. It is not a static entity! It is a continuously changing phenomenon, and infinitely complex as a market. Government does not efficiently run education for the same reason that it doesn’t do anything else efficiently; BECAUSE IT CAN’T. And the reason it can’t is because free markets are too complex for it.

    So why in the world would you want the government to run it when the free market can handle it infinitely better?

    (-14) 44 Total Votes - 15 up - 29 down
    • ekinsley says:

      The report on Cal Coast News is a gross distortion of what Provost Bob Koob said to a group of Cal Poly’s retired faculty and staff members. Provost Koob, in fact, is against privatization. He has devoted his adult life in service to public higher education and fully believes in a state-supported university system. Neither he nor any other Cal Poly administrator is working “to divorce the state” as the article contends. That is neither desirable nor practical given the investment California taxpayers have made in the land and facilities that comprise our campus.

      Provost Koob’s comments included a full history of the state’s support of the CSU and of Cal Poly. In that discussion, he noted that 25 years ago the state provided 90 percent of the cost of educating a Cal Poly student. Today, the state provides about 40 percent, making students and their parents “the majority investors” in Cal Poly. This trend, he said, is a lamentable trend toward a privatization of what has been traditionally a service of the State of California. As Provost Koob told President Armstrong today, “I have been committed to public education my entire career, and I mourn the diminishing public support for it.”

      President Armstrong, a product of a public university who also has worked his entire adult life in
      public higher education, has repeatedly expressed his support for the CSU and for Cal Poly being part of the CSU.

      Betsy Kinsley
      Chief of Staff | Office of the President
      California Polytechnic State University

      (4) 36 Total Votes - 20 up - 16 down
      • Cindy says:

        Well, there we have the official word on this, from the CalPoly Chief of Staff. Whatever was said wasn’t what was intended to be said. Unfortunately CP officials have “officially” lied to us before like when they denied the College of Engineering was operating with a serious deficit.

        It’s hard to say what’s really going on behind the scenes at CP. I have to wonder if Koob let the “cat outta the bag” and if this is just more spin and damage control. That’s the problem when certain entities develop a reputation for LYING to the public. I guess, like everything else, time will tell.

        (10) 24 Total Votes - 17 up - 7 down
        • slobody says:

          “That’s the problem when certain entities develop a reputation for LYING to the public. ” Like the Cal Coast News writer of this article? Just makes things up, and smears people. Geez folks. If you’re going to get all het up, at least make sure you have some facts. Opinions based on nonsense aren’t worth expressing.

          (-8) 28 Total Votes - 10 up - 18 down
          • MarkJames says:

            It looks to me that CCN is standing behind their story. It also appears that others who attended the luncheon meeting are confirming the statements as reported by CCN.

            CP has been caught denying facts that CCN has reported in the past. I recall when Noori came close to closing a deal to fund an extension of CP in Saudi Arabia. An institution that would have excluded women and gay’s from accessing the facilities. I still remember the denials, lies if you will, from the CP squawk box. If they would vehemently deny those facts and those facts did come to light, they would deny the statements of Provost Koob without consideration of integrity. I believe CCN got the story right as to what was said.

            (15) 19 Total Votes - 17 up - 2 down
            • slobody says:

              It looks, it looks, it looks, I believe, I believe …. Blah, blah. I know it’s hard for any pinhead to wrap itself around an idea, but folks the writer made up the heart of the story. It simply didn’t happen the way she reports it. As long as you believe the story she wrote, and froth about it, you’re just blowing smoke into the face of a hurricane.

              Look, Koob gave the same presentation to students and faculty twice prior to the occasion Viele “reported” on. None of those groups were in any way alarmed, nor did they gather that Cal Poly intended to become the Harvard of the Central Coast and divorce the CSU.

              Koob’s actual point is an excellent one. The state is forcing the CSU to behave more and more like a private school, rather than the institution described by California law, by depriving it of public funds and forcing it to take more and more from students and private (read “industry”) sources. Taking from students makes so-called public education that much less accessible to those who deserve it most; taking from industries with an interest in the outcome of their donations leads to academic disgraces like the censorship of Michael Pollin when he appeared on campus because Harris Ranch Beef didn’t like his message, leading to charges like Poly’s nothing but a second rate trade school. This outcome is really ugly, but it’s not a “private” university.

              Rather than make stuff up about Cal Poly, the reporter should look at what the CSU Chancellor is up to. He really does want to privatize the CSU, get rid of as many faculty as he can, make as much money as he can, and screw the students. That’s the real story about privatization, not Koob’s bemoaning what the Chancellor is forcing down Poly’s throat. If the reporter knew anything about the subject, she’d recognize that.

              Speaking of said Chancellor, his office has a budget as large as the five smallest campuses combined — and educates nobody. That’s a scandal Sam Blakeslee and Katcho should be doing something about. Cut the Chancellor’s office, and student fees could go down, and CSU could get back to its function, providing a quality near free education to our kids.

              (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
      • rallyraid says:

        As the “Chief of staff” are you really comfortable thinking anybody here believes a word from you?

        (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
        • KimM says:

          >>As the “Chief of staff” are you really comfortable thinking anybody here believes a word from you?<<


          (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
    • JonnyB says:

      More nonsense from the wingers! Of course there is no such thing as “free markets” and like our Founders wanted when they accepted Alex Hamilton’s economic plan, that we followed from our Founding UNTIL we listened to the likes of Milton Friedman and the Chi Boys, we used good government policy like protectionist policy’s!

      Why is it the CONservatives ALWAYS have a moving goal post for their policy’s? How did that “free market” paradise that Milton started in Chile in 1973 work out again?

      Gawd you people who HATE government and the commons!

      (-6) 26 Total Votes - 10 up - 16 down
  7. rogerfreberg says:


    Sounds to me after the current Cal Poly’s President’s pr missteps in the local media regarding his salary…. others may be working hard to not disclose the activities of the various ‘foundations’ by taking Cal Poly, Inc. all private very very quickly!

    “Golden Days are ahead, Sir Guy” — Prince John in Robin Hood

    (5) 17 Total Votes - 11 up - 6 down
    • slobody says:

      Has it occurred to you, Rog, that it would take changing an awful lot of laws before Cal Poly could privatize? Who’s going to back that in Sacramento? This isn’t just something the locals can declare. How would your wife’s union feel about this if it were a real proposal (which it’s not)?

      (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
      • rogerfreberg says:

        It wouldn’t take much, if that is what a few well placed folks wanted to do… Cal Poly has had many versions in the past… independent polytechnics ( with Pomona), part of the UC then CSU.

        Do not be surprised that under these perilous economic times that many things can change… and quickly.

        (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
  8. KatieEvans says:

    Now now Stacia, A close relative of mine who attended the luncheon just confirmed that Rob Koob has been quoted correctly by CCN. The Prof I know assures me that he didn’t misunderstand Rob.

    (17) 27 Total Votes - 22 up - 5 down

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