Trustees could make Cal Poly for the rich and out of staters
May 4, 2012
Cal Poly could become a campus for the children of wealthier families under the terms of an agenda item for the California State University Trustees meeting on Tuesday.
Trustees are to discuss cost-cutting measures that include turning one or two of the CSU system’s 23 campuses into charter universities. The move would free up money for the remaining universities as the charter universities became self-funding. The charter universities would rely on donations, a higher percentage of out-of-state students who pay higher fees and high tuition and fees, the board agenda reads.
“A charter campus would necessarily serve a student population with a higher income base, and the resources going to the campus would likely be much more than to other campuses,” the agenda says. “The charter campus would increase the inequity among the campuses and tend to favor the ‘haves’ over the ‘have nots.’ ”
If the CSU elects to transform one or more of the CSU system’s 23 campuses into charter schools, the two most likely candidates would be California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and San Diego State University, California Faculty Association spokesperson Alice Sunshine said.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), an outspoken critic of of the CSU administration, has criticized the CSU administration for finding new and creative ways to increase salaries for administrators while “students and workers suffer.”
“This demonstrates more misplaced priorities by the CSU administration,” Yee said in an email. “CSU is a public institution designed to serve all Californians, and not just the elite. Moving towards a charter school model will further displace students and likely raise tuition.”
State funding would be freed up to be used at other campuses, the agenda item reads.
The plan “would be to zero out state support for a campus and set the tuition high enough at the campus to cover the costs of operations,” the agenda says. “Moving in such a direction would require selecting a campus: a) with a distinctive mission that reaches beyond a given region; and b) with a student population with a modest need for financial aid.”
CSU spokesperson Claudia Keith discounted the likelihood of the conversion of any California State University.
“They will discuss the pros and cons but I don’t think the board is likely to make any of our schools a charter,” Keith said.
The CSU is budgeting for a $200 million budget reduction in fiscal year 2012-13, the worst case scenario, CSU officials said. Proposed cost reduction plans include shutting down one or more campuses, transferring one or more campuses into private funding by creating charter universities, discontinuing several academic programs, increasing student-faculty ratios, and/or having faculty teach additional classes, according to the agenda.
“We cannot wait until November to put a variety of these things into place,” Keith said.
The agenda item and discussion come five months after Cal Poly officials said a story on the privatization of Cal Poly by CalCoastNews was a fabrication.
CalCoastNews reported in November, on then-Provost Robert Koob’s announcement that the Cal Poly administration was working to privatize the university. Koob spoke at a Retired Faculty Association luncheon with about 50 people in attendance.
“CalPoly is on its way to becoming a private university,” Koob said. “That is where much of the nation is going and that is where CalPoly is going.”
Several attendees, including Tim O’Keefe, a political action chair for the local California Faculty Association and a member of the Retired Faculty Association, questioned Koob’s plans to privatize.
“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,” O’Keefe said after the meeting. Shortly after the CalCoastNews story appeared, Cal Poly spokesperson Stacia Momburg said that Koob never discussed privatization.
Sunshine pointed out problems California’s kindergarten through 12 grade school districts are having with charter schools. Primarily, that charter students often perform at a lower level than students in traditional public schools.
“Just when something appears not to be working, the CSU tries it,” Sunshine said.
In addition, critics warn that university privatization generally results in much higher tuition costs, less transparency, and fewer low and middle-income students. Also, critics contend academic research by faculty can be influenced by financial interests of donor individuals and corporations.
Cal Poly has already seen the influence of corporate donors. When noted author Michael Pollan was scheduled to make a presentation at Cal Poly, donors to the university complained and threatened to withhold pledges. Pollan’s solo appearance then was turned into a panel discussion with critics of his position given equal time.