Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Faculty Laptops and a $500,000 Carrot

re: today's Audit and Compliance Regents meeting
A recent purchase of a $500,000 insurance policy is supposed to serve as a carrot to campuses to come into computing and IT compliance - which may mean stricter computing standards for users. This prompted Dan Simmons, faculty rep to the regents, to make statements on behalf of faculty who feel overwhelmed by their inability to use their laptop on campus due to various computing, technical standards resulting from cumbersome compliance policies...

there also was some discussion of Price Waterhouse Coopers and a vote on Approval for for them to Perform Payroll Cost Study- and a potential conflict of interest board members might have in voting - but that was difficult to hear...

here is a link to some tidbits from the Student Regent's live blog of the meeting
try to find out more about what was said at the meeting-- it was important, very important-- here's the agenda

but you'll recall there is no way to view regents meetings or listen to archived audio at the regents website - why is that?

and the limited list of regents meetings is not complete

where is Ric Chavez when you need him?

we were lucky even to find out about the meeting and receive late access to the handouts - some negotiators from CUE also were pretty miffed about the late notice and change of venue.

heck, we frequently could not hear the speakers because someone was coughing into the microphone repeatedly and good luck on identifying the speakers on conference call-- no one bothered to do anything to make sure speakers were identified-- they are all on a first name basis - so cozy

ah, don't you just love how the Regents have embraced the use of technology -especially technology already paid for that would allow us to view the proceedings and listen at the same time , ya know something like UCTV -- NOT!

seems like the UC Regents are working hard at making sure their meetings are hard to attend - or listen to - much less view.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rectal Cranial Inversion at Daily Cal?

Specifically among its Senior Editorial Board which wrote something that sounds like it was penned at California Hall

No worries - fortunately, not indicative of the student population, rarely is...

if you know of other Op Eds from other UC student papers or organizations on SB 330 -- drop us a line- happy to link to them!

If you need more info on SB 330 see this. and this

Friday, August 27, 2010

U.C. to Manage Rental Home Costs of President - University hopes to avoid another $700,000 in expenses- and Bay Citizen's Interesting Board of Directors

they still don't get it... see the latest

Bay Citizen, the newspaper breaking this story, has a pretty interesting Board of Directors too:

F. Warren Hellman -yep that Hellman- Chairman of the Board

Neil Henry--Professor Henry is the Dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism

Jeffery W. Ubben - Mr. Ubben was a Managing Partner at Blum Capital Partners- yep that Blum- for over five years.

Diane B. Wilsey is currently chairing a $1.2 billion campaign to build a new Children's, Women's and Cancer Hospital for UCSF at Mission Bay.

Andrew Woeber - Mr. Woeber is on the Advisory Counsil of the UCSF Global Health Institute, a Chancellor’s Associate at UCSF and a member of the Audit Committee of the UCSF Foundation.

among others...

CSU finally released the Palin contract, here is the story on that

and the SF Chron wrote this Open the Windows on UC ,CSU Foundations

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Update! SB 330 and Yudof's Cribs

Updates-today needs a news roundup!:

Further evidence we need SB 330 comes from a Judge's ruling about the Palin Affair at CSU today
and this latest "CSU Says It Doesn't Have Palin Contract"

here are some of the notable quotes in these stories:

"CSU's chief financial officer, Benjamin Quillian, acknowledged that the commingling of funds is a problem. But he rejected accusations that the university acted maliciously.
The funds become entwined, he said... It has reached the point, Quillian said, that he can't tell where the money belongs or how much has not been properly tracked."

"We're faced with an order to turn over a document we don't have. We've never had it," Theodora said. "We're going to have to ask the foundation if they will release contract to the court and then release it to the public."

and also see "CSU, Foundations Mixing Public Private Funds" in SF Chron

and Kaplan online at CA community colleges got a smackdown

Original Post:
First, here is the pathetic:

"No taxpayer funds have been expended for the official residence of the University of California president. Costs related to the presidential residence are covered through a private endowment gifted to the university for such purposes."

Steve Montiel, UC media relations

Then, the questions that arise:

Montiel's comment does point us to some real questions that need to be fully answered:

1- When did Lafayette become the Official Residence of the University of California President? (or is that determined by where the Royal Sovereign lays his head down each night?)

2- What is the full title of the private endowment gifted to the university for such purposes? What is the balance on that account? What interest earned? Who are the donors and what were their wishes and intentions for the funds?

3- Why wasn't that account tapped to repair Blake House? Why were funds from that account instead given to rental property - rental property not owned by the UC?

4- Were the funds for the general counsel's time to negotiate with the landlord paid from that private endowment? what about the percent time of other staff who dealt with this issue?

you can read the full UCOP tin ear response here

Which leads to a lesson, and a call to action:

and, folks, here we have the intersection where SB 330 meets up with these "Costs related to the presidential residence are covered through a private endowment gifted to the university for such purposes."

Now, the glorious snark that brings sanity to the sick situation:

UCMEP writes:
"Thank you Steve Montiel for the clarification. We are happy to know that the university has a special endowment for security deposits that are lost by the misdeeds of hapless UC Presidents"

you can read other comments and reactions here. But, FIRST, please make sure to send the Governor a phone call, email or fax to show support for SB 330 by contacting him, a direct link is available here

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I love Blake House-Mark Yudof does not deserve to live there imo

Mr. Yudof apparently was having rental problems at his $13,000+ per month rental home in the Oakland hills --rent that UC pays for--- in fact, this article says UCOP recently paid for repairs on the rental home and that UC staff were used in negotiations with his landlord over repairs and security deposits... hhhmmm.

$600,000.00 has already gone out over the last two years on Yudoff rent and housing expenses.

Mr. Yudof is now living in Lafayette-it is half the size but still costs UC $11,000 per month- the reason UC paid for his Oakland home was because he had to "fulfill his obligation to host functions for staff members, donors and visiting dignitaries" - we wonder how many staff and students will be going out to Lafayette for UC events Yudof hosts in the future- seriously!- LAFAYETTE!!!?!?! -- unbelievable. Why is UC still paying for the rent on that suburban dwelling which is so far from UCOP headquarters in Oakland and far from any campus business in Berkeley- who is going to travel through the major multi year Caldecott Tunnel construction or already congested back roads for a visit? Donors and VIPs prefer to be on campus or at UCOP, by the bay-- not off in an inland suburb on the county line.

Yudof refers to his former landlord - as the "landlord from hell" - his name is Brennan Mulligan and he is a fellow Cal Alum so, Go Bears, Mr. Mulligan! btw, I've heard more than a few folks refer to Yudof as the UC Pres from hell, just sayin'. UC General Counsel makes calls to the landlord too!!!WTF!!!

It is interesting how Yudof changed his mind on settlement after The Bay Citizen newspaper filed a public-records request for information about the university’s expenditures on the house. Also, why would you rent a home in the hills with so many stairs in the first place if your poor wife has bad knees? Not exactly a planner, we guess...

Blake House is the UC President home in Kensington (also an estate students of environmental design and landscape architecture study at) that Mark Yudof described this way: "they have a president’s house, it needed $8 million of repairs and I decided that was not the way to go. Why the heck would I ever authorize $8 million for a house I didn’t want to live in anyhow?"

Blake House and Garden development began in the early 1920s when Anson Siles Blake and his wife Anita Day Symmes of Berkeley sought a new site for their home in order to make way for the university's proposed football stadium. It is a 13,239-square-foot mansion in Kensington with 10 acres of land, gorgeous Mediterranean gardens and sweeping views of the bay. In 1957 the Blakes deeded their house and garden to the University, and title passed to the University upon Anson Blake's death in 1962. Five years later, Blake House officially became the UC President's residence.

Five years ago there were complaints about the cost of upkeep on Blake House see this article. Now, we are paying for Blake House as a UC property and not using it for UC functions -- and also paying for housing and expenses at another luxury home in the Oakland Hills-- and now Lafayette. Why?!

I am currently watching a documentary called Saving the Bay.
Mrs. Catherine Kerr (wife of former UC President Clark Kerr) had a huge hand in saving the bay and developing the Save the Bay Foundation during her husband's term as UC President.
Mrs. Kerr is quoted as saying that she looked at the bay from her home - I believe on Grizzly Peak Road and at Blake House- and could see the devastation occurring to the bay due to infill/dumping. Mrs. Kerr knew that it needed to be saved. Her contribution to saving the bay and the bay area through creation of the McAteer Petris Act is immense. She did so, in part, through the use of her husband's status and her connections at UC. It was for a public good, rather than a private indulgence. I highly recommend watching the full four hour documentary. It is narrated by Robert Redford and has won four Emmy awards.

Both Yudof and Kerr hail from Pennsylvania.

Kerr gave us some of the golden years of UC- turbulent, painful, and also golden and he was fired by Gov. Reagan.

Yudof,a man who prides himself on being a Philadelphia lawyer, instead is like gum on our shoe.

The contrast is striking!

It is remarkable to me how far we have fallen in what we expect of our UC Presidents.

My hope is that one day we will have a UC President who will understand the true value and meaning of UC to California and values its natural resources- like 1.2 million gallons of water! A president who will truly use a president's home for meeting members of the UC community on a frequent basis as intended- not someone who merely holds 23 functions over a 24 month period- a future UC President who will be able to appreciate the history of Blake House and the restoration of Blake House and Gardens.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is SB 330 "Expendable"?

Is SB 330 Expendable? - we hope not- it is now on the Governor's desk - will he sign it or veto it? You can contact the Governor by phone or email here.

Higher Education Transparency Bill Sent to Governor
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Yee's bill expands public records law to campus auxiliaries and foundations

SACRAMENTO – On a bipartisan 22-10 vote, the California Senate today sent Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) legislation authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) to bring greater transparency and accountability at California’s public higher education institutions. Earlier this week, the Assembly passed the bill unanimously (71-0). Once received, the Governor will have 12 days to sign or veto the measure.

SB 330 – a reintroduction of last year’s SB 218 – would update the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to include auxiliary organizations and foundations that perform government functions at the University of California, California State University, and California’s community colleges.

Today, the fate of the bill was initially in jeopardy when many Republican Senators reversed their previous support for the bill, citing the Sarah Palin-CSU Stanislaus controversy. Every Republican Senator supported prior versions of the bill and last year’s SB 218, which were both broader and did not include exemptions for anonymous donors and donor information that are currently contained in the bill.

“They were for it before they were against it,” said Yee. “Transparency should be a non-partisan issue, yet the introduction of Sarah Palin into the debate seems to have made some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle less supportive of an open and transparent government.”

To address the Governor’s veto message from last year, the new bill has been amended to exempt from disclosure the names of volunteers and donors who wish to remain anonymous provided they do not receive something of value greater than $500 in exchange for their donation or service. The bill will also exempt information obtained in the process of soliciting donations.

“SB 330 will help ensure government transparency and will protect funds for public education,” said Yee. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse at UC and CSU. The Governor has another opportunity to burnish his record on open government. By signing SB 330, he will provide taxpayers and students what they deserve – information on how their universities are being run and how money is being spent that is intended for the benefit of the public institution.”

“SB 330 would remove the cloak of secrecy that prevents the public from understanding whether significant amounts of educational funding for taxpayer-funded colleges and universities is being spent for the benefit of all Californians or just a privileged few,” said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The most recent scandal of an auxiliary organization involved the CSU Stanislaus Foundation. The Foundation negotiated a speaking contract with Palin, but originally refused to disclose her compensation. They first claimed they had no documents pertaining to her June visit. After emails written by administrators regarding the visit were uncovered, they then claimed the Foundation was exempt from the state’s public records law despite being fully staffed by taxpayer-funded employees.

Students later found pages 4 through 9 of the Palin contract in the administration’s Dumpster, which showed her visit requirements include a hotel suite, first class airfare or a private Lear jet, pre-screened questions, and “bendable straws.” As a result of significant public pressure, the CSU eventually disclosed after her visit that she also received $75,000 plus expenses – more than double what a local Republican Party in Lane County, Oregon paid Palin in April.

The incident spurred an investigation by the Attorney General, which has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by Californians Aware – a nonprofit organization committed to open government. Senator Yee also received several hate messages after he made a public records request for the Palin contract and other University correspondence.

The UC and CSU have often evaded the public records act by shifting some responsibilities to foundations and other auxiliary organizations operating on campuses. Several recent examples demonstrate the need for increased public oversight and accountability provided by SB 330:

• At Sonoma State, a $1.25 million loan issued to a former foundation board member two days after he resigned. Recently a bankruptcy court forced the Sonoma State Foundation to return a portion of that loan which the former board member attempted to pay outside of the bankruptcy court proceedings. The Attorney General and the FBI are investigating a number of auxiliaries at Sonoma State.

• At Fresno State, a no-bid managing contract was given to a foundation member for a theatre complex in which he held a financial interest. In addition, the Fresno Bee newspaper was denied information in 2001, specifically concerning the identity of individuals and companies that received luxury suites at the Save Mart Center arena. The denial resulted in CSU v. Superior Court (McClatchy Company), in which the Court opined that although it recognized university auxiliaries ought to be covered by the CPRA and that its ruling was counter to the obvious legislative intent of the CPRA, the rewriting of the statute was a legislative responsibility.

• At San Francisco City College, a campus executive has been indicted for using money from the San Francisco City College Foundation for personal and political purposes. At San Jose/Evergreen Community College, the Chancellor was found to have engaged in lavish travel and other examples of financial impropriety that prompted her resignation. Since local community college campus auxiliaries are already subject to the CPRA, these instances of waste and abuse have lead to the parties being held to account.

• Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez spent $200,000 from the campus auxiliary money to remodel his kitchen in 2007 which created “the appearance of impropriety,” according to an Attorney General audit. Additionally at Sacramento State, $6.3 million of public funds was transferred to University Enterprises Inc. – a campus auxiliary – to backfill losses from a property acquisition, which is completely contrary to UC and CSU claims that no taxpayer dollars are used for campus auxiliary operations.

• Campus leadership at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo appears to be under the influence of a well-heeled donor. In October 2009, Cal Poly eliminated a guest lecture at the request of executives from the Harris Ranch Beef Company, who threatened to withhold $500,000 in support for a new campus meat-processing center. Emails recently obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune also found that Harris Ranch may have also forced the resignation of a faculty member who taught a course on sustainable farming. Harris officials are now requesting a meeting with Cal Poly administrators to determine whether or not they will continue with their donation.

According to the CSU Chancellor’s Office, 20 percent of its $6.7 billion budget, or $1.34 billion, is held in their 87 auxiliaries and foundations, and out of public view.

“If government agencies can spin off front groups to handle their income with no transparency, those who provide that funding will never know quite where their money goes,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware.
source: http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com/

Brave

Please read Bob Samuels recent post at Huffington Post.

these two paragraphs alone send a chill and make us extremely sad for our alma mater:

"In reading Nelson's book, I was surprised to note that virtually all of the examples of corporatization and privatization that Nelson documents from around the world have recently occurred in the University of California system. This includes administrators pushing expensive, untested online programs, faculty having their emails read, Right-wing groups trying to censor teachers, the creation of ad hoc committees to circumvent normal shared governance, the push to defund the humanities, the creation of false budget emergencies to enact hidden agendas, and the persecution of university whistleblowers to name just a few. Not only have I discussed all of these issues in my blog, [http://changinguniversities.blogspot.com/] but my own program, where I teach at UCLA, has been victimized by all of these destructive processes.

Not only did I discover this year that some administrators were receiving all of my emails, but, a couple of years ago, our campus had to fight an outside Right-wing group that was paying students to record teachers saying anti-conservative and "anti-American" things. If this was not bad enough, UCLA recently decided to set up their own internal web site so that students and other community members could report acts of bias. This type of digital surveillance system surely has a chilling effect on academic freedom."

Once again, please read the full post here. If this is what it is like on campus-- imagine what it is like for grad students, undergrads, and lower level staff.

P.S. It reminds us of something that happened during the March 4th protests this year-- when many professors signed their name to petitions using an anonymous signature -literally "Prof. XXXX, UC -----"- no name, just fear of retaliation and, yet, a desire to be counted. Very sad.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"It's All C.Y.A, It's C.Y.A All The Time"

i could not wait - i had to use that quote from my last post asap
anyway, there is an article on the new book “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It.”:
(a well-known professor (Mr. Hacker) and the other consigned to the adjunct, or what they call “contingent,” faculty (Ms. Dreifus, who is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times)
Mr. Hacker and Ms. Dreifus list a host of crimes, or at least flaws in the system, some in the control of universities and others built into the external political, cultural or economic environment, or indeed into human nature. These include the narrow self-interestedness of academic departments; the greed of faculty members and administrators alike; the near-universal hypertrophy of “the athletics incubus”; unfunded government mandates; lifetime employment for pampered professors (thanks to the combination of tenure and Congressional abolition of mandatory retirement); and the demands of students and their parents for frivolous extras (driving what the authors call “the amenities arms race”).

you can read the full article here

Checks and Balances

Remaking the University has a piece on the right wing slant in some recent stories on higher ed.

it reminds me of this recent quick take from Inside Higher Ed

Sure enough, just like Inside Higher Ed predicted...

today, David Horowitz was on Neil Cavuto - Faux News to discuss his new book Reforming Universities

(and it's F-A-U-X 'cause of this)

Horowitz says (paraphrase) Professors work 6-9 hours a week, 4 month paid vacations, they have salaries in the six figure range for this... they have all the power and control "it's all C.Y.A, it's C.Y.A all the time" -its a monopoly, there needs to be an anti trust investigation of public universities, more legislative scrutiny... --it is all in the interview link above.

Anyone remember back in the day when Horowitz spoke at Cal- heckled and all with 30 armed guards? Or, his more recent visit?

On a somewhat related note, the LA Times has riled up some teachers unions in SoCal - because the LA Times wants to publish some data about PUBLIC schools-the union is telling members not to buy the paper, cancel subscriptions - A.J. Duffy and Jason Song were on CNN with Ali Velshi today to discuss it. Disturbing.

Much of this discussion on Higher Ed in the public square, msm has been LONG OVERDUE.
We'll take it whether it is right wing or left wing or whatever- so long as the facts win out in developing real checks and balances.

P.S.
Why don't Remaking the University and Changing Universities sponsor/participate in a debate with Horowitz and Jay Greene at one of the campuses? It would be fab!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Assembly Approves Higher Education Transparency Bill - Update on SB 330

NOTE: Before heading to the Governor, SB 330 must receive a procedural concurrence vote in the Senate. Then, the Governor can either sign the bill or veto it-again.

Yee's bill expands public records law to campus auxiliaries and foundations

SACRAMENTO – On a bipartisan 71-0 vote, the State Assembly today approved legislation authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) to bring greater transparency and accountability at California’s public higher education institutions.

SB 330 – a reintroduction of last year’s SB 218 – would update the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to include auxiliary organizations and foundations that perform government functions at the University of California, California State University, and California’s community colleges.

To address the Governor’s veto message from last year, the new bill has been amended to exempt from disclosure the names of volunteers and donors who wish to remain anonymous provided they do not receive something of value greater than $500 in exchange for their donation or service. The bill will also exempt information obtained in the process of soliciting donations.

“SB 330 will help ensure government transparency and will protect funds for public education,” said Yee. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse at UC and CSU. The Governor has a second chance to do the right thing and to provide taxpayers and students what they deserve – information on how their universities are being run and how money is being spent that is intended for the benefit of the public institution.”

“SB 330 would remove the cloak of secrecy that prevents the public from understanding whether significant amounts of educational funding for taxpayer-funded colleges and universities is being spent for the benefit of all Californians or just a privileged few,” said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The most recent scandal of an auxiliary organization involved the CSU Stanislaus Foundation. The Foundation negotiated a speaking contract with Sarah Palin, but originally refused to disclose her compensation. They first claimed they had no documents pertaining to her June visit. After emails written by administrators regarding the visit were uncovered, they then claimed the Foundation was exempt from the state’s public records law despite being fully staffed by taxpayer-funded employees.

Students later found pages 4 through 9 of the Palin contract in the administration’s Dumpster, which showed her visit requirements include a hotel suite, first class airfare or a private Lear jet, pre-screened questions, and “bendable straws.” As a result of significant public pressure, the CSU eventually disclosed after her visit that she also received $75,000 plus expenses – more than double what a local Republican Party in Lane County, Oregon paid Palin in April.

The incident spurred an investigation by the Attorney General, which has been put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by Californians Aware – a nonprofit organization committed to open government. Senator Yee also received several hate messages after he made a public records request for the Palin contract and other University correspondence.

The UC and CSU have often evaded the public records act by shifting some responsibilities to foundations and other auxiliary organizations operating on campuses. Several recent examples demonstrate the need for increased public oversight and accountability provided by SB 330:

• At Sonoma State, a $1.25 million loan issued to a former foundation board member two days after he resigned. Recently a bankruptcy court forced the Sonoma State Foundation to return a portion of that loan which the former board member attempted to pay outside of the bankruptcy court proceedings. The Attorney General and the FBI are investigating a number of auxiliaries at Sonoma State.

• At Fresno State, a no-bid managing contract was given to a foundation member for a theatre complex in which he held a financial interest. In addition, the Fresno Bee newspaper was denied information in 2001, specifically concerning the identity of individuals and companies that received luxury suites at the Save Mart Center arena. The denial resulted in CSU v. Superior Court (McClatchy Company), in which the Court opined that although it recognized university auxiliaries ought to be covered by the CPRA and that its ruling was counter to the obvious legislative intent of the CPRA, the rewriting of the statute was a legislative responsibility.

• At San Francisco City College, a campus executive has been indicted for using money from the San Francisco City College Foundation for personal and political purposes. At San Jose/Evergreen Community College, the Chancellor was found to have engaged in lavish travel and other examples of financial impropriety that prompted her resignation. Since local community college campus auxiliaries are already subject to the CPRA, these instances of waste and abuse have lead to the parties being held to account.

• Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez spent $200,000 from the campus auxiliary money to remodel his kitchen in 2007 which created “the appearance of impropriety,” according to an Attorney General audit. Additionally at Sacramento State, $6.3 million of public funds was transferred to University Enterprises Inc. – a campus auxiliary – to backfill losses from a property acquisition, which is completely contrary to UC and CSU claims that no taxpayer dollars are used for campus auxiliary operations.

• Campus leadership at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo appears to be under the influence of a well-heeled donor. In October 2009, Cal Poly eliminated a guest lecture at the request of executives from the Harris Ranch Beef Company, who threatened to withhold $500,000 in support for a new campus meat-processing center. Emails recently obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune also found that Harris Ranch may have also forced the resignation of a faculty member who taught a course on sustainable farming. Harris officials are now requesting a meeting with Cal Poly administrators to determine whether or not they will continue with their donation.

According to the CSU Chancellor’s Office, 20 percent of its $6.7 billion budget, or $1.34 billion, is held in their 87 auxiliaries and foundations, and out of public view.

“If government agencies can spin off front groups to handle their income with no transparency, those who provide that funding will never know quite where their money goes,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware.

Before heading to the Governor, SB 330 must receive a procedural concurrence vote in the Senate.

source: http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com/

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Season Of The Textbook Racket

More choices alter college textbook landscape

(AP)

On Friday afternoons between work and rugby practice, Brittany Wolfe would rush to the campus library hoping copies of her advanced algebra textbook had not all been checked out by like-minded classmates.

It was part of the math major's routine last quarter at the University of California, Los Angeles: Stand in line at the reserve desk in the library's closing hours with the goal of borrowing a copy for the weekend.

The alternative was to buy a $120 book and sell it back for far less. If she could sell it back at all.

"It's like this terrible game of catch your books when you can," said Wolfe, a new graduate who estimates she saved $800 a year using books on reserve and who now shares textbook tips as a counselor to incoming UCLA students. "It's frustrating when you're already stressed about school. Being stressed about textbooks doesn't seem right."

Maybe, just maybe, relief is on the way.

A new federal law requires publishers to provide textbook price information to professors and calls on colleges to identify course textbooks during registration, giving students more time to shop around. Experts call it a step in the right direction, but not a game-changer.

At the same time, a robust online marketplace of used books and recent inroads by textbook rental programs give students more options than ever. The prospect of digital books and slow-but-steady growth in free online "open" content loom as developments that could upend the textbook landscape and alleviate the perennial problem of rising prices.

"Change is coming, but it's not going to happen immediately," said David Lewis, dean of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis University Library and assistant vice president for digital scholarly communications at Indiana University. "If you're in junior high school, you can be sure it'll be better. If you're in high school, there's a shot. If you're starting college as a freshman, you might see it as a senior. It's on more and more people's agenda."

According to a 2005 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, college textbook prices increased at twice the rate of inflation over the previous two decades, though not as dramatically as tuition.

More recent data from the National Association of College Stores show textbooks costs climbed 14 percent from the 2006-2007 academic year to 2008-2009. A 2010 survey by the group found students spent an average of $667 per year on required course materials including textbooks, although other studies have put the figure at about $900.

In 2008, Congress responded by including textbook-affordability provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

Along with the price-disclosure clause meant to push professors toward cheaper options, it requires publishers to offer textbooks separately from extra items like workbooks and CDs. The practice of "bundling" products leads to markups of 10 to 50 percent and makes books harder to sell, according to the Student Public Interest Research Groups, which pressed for the reforms.

"We have more lower cost options than ever before, and professors are going to have more information than ever before," said Nicole Allen, textbook advocate for the student PIRGs.

Like the music and media businesses, the textbook industry has been revolutionized by the Internet. Although used books have long been an option for students, the Web opened up a world of bargain-hunting beyond the campus bookstore.

These days, sites such as BIGWORDS and BestBookBuys let students search several online stores at once. The 13th edition of the seminal textbook "Marketing Management," which lists for $190 new, can be had for as little as $19.99 used.

More recently, textbook rental sites such as Chegg, BookRenter and CollegeBookRenter have arrived, offering rentals at roughly half the cost of buying. Their business model — Netflix goes to college — has prompted college bookstores and publishers to play catch up and offer rentals themselves.

Textbook publisher Cengage Learning began renting directly to students last spring and has expanded its online rental inventory to 3,000 titles. Campus bookstore operator Follett will introduce rentals at more than 800 bookstores this fall, and Barnes & Noble will do the same on more than 300 campuses.

Earlier this summer, BookRenter, which has contracts with Amazon.com and other online booksellers to fill orders, announced that more than 75 campus bookstores would use its platform to rent textbooks.

Chegg keeps its own inventory of nearly 5 million books at a warehouse outside Louisville, Ky. The startup aspires to forge direct relationships with students, shipping products in their own packaging, offering a liberal return policy and promising to plant a tree for every order, said CEO Dan Rosensweig, a former Yahoo executive.

Behind the scenes, publishers get a share of the rental revenue — something they can't say about used book sales.

Open access textbooks pose a bolder challenge to the status quo. The startup Flat World Knowledge contracts with authors to write new textbooks and publishes them for free under an open content license, allowing professors to edit the raw material and add their own contributions while giving students access to a Web-based HTML book.

Last fall, about 480 professors adopted one of the company's initial 10 business and economics titles, said co-founder Eric Frank. About 1,200 professors are expected to use 22 titles to teach 95,000 students this fall.

The company is betting students will pay a reasonable price for greater convenience. Flat World's revenue comes from selling everything from $30 black-and-white copies of its books to $3 audio chapters, as well as study aids like digital flash cards. About 55 percent of students are buying something at this point, Frank said.

So far, the main drawback to open access is the dearth of titles, said Albert Greco, a professor at Fordham University's Graduate School of Business Administration and an authority on the textbook publishing industry.

Greco and others forecast a major shift in the next five years to digital textbooks, which already cost about half as much as new print editions on CourseMart.com, a kind of textbook iTunes launched in 2007 by the major textbook publishers.

That would doom the used book and print rental marketplace, Greco said. As for immediate relief from the new price disclosure law, Greco said it won't do any good for students unlucky enough to have four courses with brand-new books.

"Whether it will help students comes down to, 'It depends,'" he said.

Sophie Stanish, a junior at Fordham University in New York, fumes about paying $200 for a new math textbook she couldn't sell back and a $10 short-story collection that fetched 75 cents at trade-in.

She likes the concept of Fordham's "E-RES" program — short for "electronic reserve" — in which professors scan sections of textbooks to the extent allowed by copyright law and then put the material online for free.

But, she said, "I can't read off a screen and retain the knowledge as well. It's a personal thing. I like to highlight."

Other colleges seeking to provide relief have adopted textbook loan programs. At City College of San Francisco, Kathy Gill said she misses class to line up early for a popular loan program for students on financial aid.

The limit is two loaned books, so the business major still shops online for used and rental options each semester.

"You do get a little bit of a break," Gill said. "Every little thing helps."
source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j7K-oxQ2S4MeKCIVbPXTpjAmTPXgD9HEODD80

let us also recall Pres. Obama's comments on the "textbook racket"


Sen. Barack Obama makes remarks during a meeting with students on college affordability, Feb. 22, 2008, at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

by Mike Dorning

EDINBURG, Tex—It’s an old gripe of college students all over the country: professors who assign expensive textbooks that those very same professors just happened to have authored.

Count Barack Obama, who once taught classes at the University of Chicago Law School, among those who sees a conflict of interest in professors who assign mandatory reading and then receive royalties when students purchase the books.

Unbidden, Obama veered onto the topic as he was finishing a roundtable on college affordability today with students at the University of Texas-Pan American, a state school near the Mexican border with a student body that includes many Latinos from financially struggling families.

Noting the enormous cost of textbooks, Obama called the practice "a big scam.”

"Books are a big scam," Obama said. "I taught law at the University of Chicago for 10 years, and one of the biggest scams is law professors write their own text books and then assign it to their students."

“They make a mint. It’s a huge racket,” he added.

Still, the presidential candidate did not propose any government policy changes to address the issue.

source: http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/02/obama_on_a_college_textbook_ra.html

if you know of a new policy proposal offered on this specific issue by the Obama administration drop us a line.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chris Edley : No Uvas!

Great piece in the Daily Bruin. Looks like some of the students are not so keen on Edley's "Si Se Puede" Online Instruction presentation at the Regents Meeting.

Check out this paragraph:
"Online classes would have a hard time incorporating projects, presentations and collaborative efforts in classes. Skipping class and cheating by having another student take an exam become easier as attendance, participation and identity verification are difficult, if not impossible over the Internet."

and Bob Samuels of Changing Universities "How the Push for Online Degrees Hides the Cause of the UC's Financial Problems" tells us:
"undergraduate education already turns a huge profit, and these profits are used to sustain the unprofitable sectors like administration and external research"

and Inside Higher Ed also is covering Edley's proposal.

P.S.
CA State Supreme Court upholds affirmative action ban

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Should Uncle Sam Attend For-Profit Schools?

Problems with student loans revolving around for-profit universities draw moves to reform the federal footprint.
By Emily Badger in MILLER-MCCUNE

Some Interesting Excerpts:
The University of Phoenix, for example, reported last year that 86 percent of its revenue came from federal Title IV student aid. It’s an investment from which the government gets little in return when students neither graduate nor repay their debt. And it subsidizes an educational industry beholden not to students, but to Wall Street.

“This is now a sector in which the vast majority of participants are actually engaged in what I view as counterfeiting of degrees and consumer fraud,” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. “Consumer fraud defined as over-advertised, over-promised, overcharged and under-delivered.

“For a group that reports to be market-based,” he went on to a room of education insiders at the New America Foundation, “what is a better measure of market failure than apparently nobody but the idiot federal government puts their money into these institutions? That is the single best indication that the product has no intrinsic value. People who spend their own money don’t spend it there.”
______________________

Nassirian calls the benchmarks “anemic” relative to the scope of the problem. But the administration’s stated goals also raise another question: If it’s a waste of the government’s money to subsidize loans for education that doesn’t actually lead to gainful employment, why stop at for-profit higher ed? Couldn’t the same be said of a liberal arts degree in philosophy?

James Kvaal, a deputy undersecretary at the education department, says the agency has long been responsible for setting minimum standards of eligibility for for-profit schools seeking access to federal student aid. The phrase “gainful employment” has been on the books since 1965; DOE has simply never defined it before.

“When you’re talking about regulating subprime loans, you’re setting minimum standards. You are potentially reducing peoples’ ability to get loans,” Kvaal said. “Here we’re talking about programs’ eligibility. Students aren’t going to lose their eligibility.”

It’s also hard to argue for access to an education that may leave students worse off than when they enrolled.

“If we have an access problem in this country,” Nassirian said, “we should forthrightly address it and not simply satisfy ourselves by stuffing the pockets of low-income citizens with vouchers to enable somebody to rip them off. That is not education.”
To read the full article:
http://www.miller-mccune.com/politics/should-uncle-sam-attend-for-profit-schools-20142/