The transportable college credit act

My Computer Science degree has Arnold Schwarzenegger's Autograph

The taxpayers help fund it- why not treat college credits like public currency? James LeVeque via Compfight

I’ve been watching a movement that started in the UK- that has huge implications for the parent company of LexisNexis, Reed Elsevier. It seems a university researcher started wondering why research paid for with government funds was being sold back to the government by the “scientific press” at extraordinary expense in the form of “professional journals.” His university was spending millions to buy back i-s own research.

Now that we have the Internet, the costs of publishing has dropped dramatically, yet the costs of these peer-reviewed publications hasn’t. It’s all about cache and tradition.

We have another case of similar bs going on right here in the Miami Valley. While everyone is told that Sinclair College is an amazing value and a great way to earn an associate’s degree and then transfer to a four-year school to get a bachelors, it doesn’t quite work out as smoothly as we’d like to believe.

Example. Non-traditional student (single mom, with 2 kids, coming back to school at 29 for a career change) graduates with honors from Sinclair in Visual Communications and the internship with LexisNexis turns into a job. At first, income is low, and UD subsidizes its ridiculously high tuition and LexisNexis provides support and school is relatively affordable. After 2 years in school part time, scheduling gets tougher and income has risen and now tuition skyrockets. Also, federal financial assistance drops.

Investigate transfer to Wright State. Admissions says wonderful, send transcripts, and we’ll talk. Tuition is considerably lower and scheduling around work schedule is easier. Then, the rejection. “You have to complete a “majority of your coursework at our school to get your degree, we’re not going to accept all of your credits.” Wait I say, these credits were financed mostly by us- with the goal of creating a college graduate. In another case of “you didn’t build this” the Universities seem to forget where a large proportion of their funding comes from- the taxpayers.

How many different ways do we subsidize public and private universities? The list is endless:

  • In the case of public universities- we build the buildings, we pay the staff, we make grants to students, we supply students with low-interest loans and of course, we don’t charge the schools property taxes (and in the case of Sinclair- we directly financed their debt-free school- the only public school with zero debt in Ohio, with our property taxes).
  • In the case of UD (or any private school)- guess what, we don’t build the buildings (although we give huge tax breaks to GE when it builds a building on the UD campus) we don’t pay the staff directly (although through research grants, and funding student loans and grants we subsidize their pay) and yes- they don’t pay property taxes either.

We have a huge investment in public higher education. If the government got out of subsidizing higher-ed, no one would be able to afford it except the very rich and the smartest who would be sponsored by industry who need the brains to continue.

So with the new focus on improving graduation rates at public schools, why are we treating college credits paid for in large part with public dollars as a private currency only good at an individual school? Just like we have the laws protecting interstate commerce and creating a common currency to enable trade and growth- why are college credits treated as proprietary property of schools that are paid in largely by the public? Why do college credits expire? My on-the-job experience doesn’t expire in the real world? Why aren’t college credits, as long as they are bestowed by an accredited institution, fully portable and without an expiration date?

In a free market economy, people are supposed to be able to move to where the jobs are, competition is supposed to be stoked by market forces competing without artificial restrictions. Competitive expertise is supposed to be highly valued and accessible without artificial barriers put in place- so why can’t I learn my physics from MIT, my humanities from Harvard and my English lit from Dennison if I so choose? Why can’t I assemble an education that meets a single standard- a set number of credits in an accredited sequence from any accredited school and gain a diploma? I can build almost anything else in the world with suppliers from across the globe- why not my own education?

While the idea of a degree from Harvard having more value than one from Hiram, in the end, it’s what you do with your knowledge that counts, not where the degree came from. We’re questioning the value that higher education is providing more and more these days- and don’t have to look far to see college drop-outs making it to the “proverbial top”  – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg  (there is a wikipedia page to Harvard drop- outs that “made it” that’s quite interesting).

Considering we’re well into the “information age” why are we still holding on to traditions from the 17th century when it comes to education? It’s time to re-invent higher ed with a simple change- if your institution accepts public money, it must accept all accredited college credit no matter where it comes from or when. We’re investing in people- not pomp and circumstance, and if you earned your credit at Sinclair/UD/WSU there is no reason you can’t graduate with a degree from the University of US- the taxpayer, we helped fund it.

Time for Warren County to pay for Sinclair

While Montgomery County is looking at budget cuts, Warren County is siting on extra cash like a fat cat. Some of this can probably be attributed to the brilliant work done by their former State Rep Tom Raga in convincing Sinclair President Steve Johnson to expand into Warren County without a tax to pay for it. Now that Raga has done his job at Sinclair- he’s got another cushy job at DP&L where all good lobbyists do a stint.

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

The $61 million budget Warren County commissioners are expected to pass Tuesday for 2011 does not have the dramatic cuts that other neighboring counties have gone through.

In fact, the budget is a slight increase from last year, includes the hiring of four new employees, and the county is expected to give its non-unionized employees a 2 percent increase next year.

via Warren budget increases while neighboring counties make cuts.

Maybe it’s time to ask Warren County residents to start paying their share for an institution that was built and paid for by Montgomery County taxpayers for the last 30 years. And, btw- Sinclair is the only public institution of higher education in the State- with zero debt and at least 100 million in the bank.

You’re welcome Warren County, now pay up.

Sinclair Community College-benefits for which community?

I’ve been critical of the expansion of Sinclair Community College into Warren County. It’s bad enough that we’ve been losing population and business to them- but now they are getting the fruits of our tax support of a Montgomery County institution with zero tax burden.

Sure, they will pay more in tuition, but it’s marginally more. The college administration will say that none of your tax dollars are being spent- yet, they are wasting their valuable time (Dr. Johnson makes $274K a year- the highest paid government employee in Montgomery County) on something we didn’t agree to.

Now, in the midst of an economic pounding- right after we almost unanimously approved another levy- and when they’ve just instituted a 3.5% tuition hike- they want to hike tuition and fees even higher:

Johnson said Thursday he would ask the board Saturday to “move forward on the request for a special fee exception (from the state) to allow us to readjust our tuition and fees.”

“It’s my goal to remain the lowest in the state of Ohio, but I would like to get right up to the second lowest — whatever would close that gap or at least narrow that gap,” Johnson said.

Sinclair’s $2,050 annual tuition for full-time Montgomery County students is the lowest in Ohio. Lorain’s annual tuition is $2,400. The $350 difference represents a 17 percent gap.

Both colleges are supported by county levies.

Sinclair spokeswoman Natasha Baker said any increase would not be done all at once.

Sinclair’s board in September approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase that started this month with the winter quarter. The college had kept tuition frozen for 12 of the last 19 years.

via Sinclair president urges tuition, fee hike; board won’t act on it today.

I believe- and have written it here many times, that Sinclair Community College with its unbelievably low tuition is one of the best reasons to live here- and to move your business here. Now, Dr. Johnson wants to take away our competitive advantage by raising rates to parity with Lorain Community College. The difference: Sinclair is the only debt-free institution of higher ed in the State- and has $100 mill in the bank. That’s your money at work.

Just because he’s gone on an expansion binge, doesn’t give him a right to take it out of the students’ wallets. We paid for the privilege of having an amenity- now, Dr. Johnson has to learn to live within our budget.

If he wants to keep raising tuition and growing his empire- maybe he needs to go somewhere else- or do it with his own money. The taxpayers of Montgomery County deserve better.

Greg and I have another spirited discussion (at least the best I could do with his interruptions) about this topic. Greg asserts that Sinclair isn’t delivering at all, I disagree. One thing we agree on, is that certain developers have done well with these out of county expansions of community colleges. What are your thoughts?

Dayton Grassroots Daily Show: v.21, Job Retraining

Walmart sells things made in China- but, now, they’re trying to sell themselves as nice guys by handing out chump change donations for job retraining:

scholarships are the result of a $336,500 grant Sinclair received in August from the Walmart Foundation. Sinclair was one of eight U.S. community colleges to share in a total of $3.5 million as part of the Walmart Brighter Futures project.

via Sinclair gets grant from Walmart Foundation to help jobless.

These “jobs of the future” pay between $12-16 an hour, just slightly more than what Walmart pays. Never mind that these people we are “retraining” were  skilled in making trucks that used to pay them between $12 and $35 an hour.

Greg Hunter and David Esrati talk about the real reasons we’re “retraining” our workforce in this 5 minute video- enjoy.

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Henry Ford had it right when he paid his first autoworkers well so they could afford to buy his cars. If the President had balls, he’d be laying down the law to Corporate America that there will be no million dollar salaries or bonus checks to anyone working in a company with publicly traded stock- if they lay anyone off- or fail to hire additional workers starting Jan 1, 2010.

A model for rebuilding Dayton Public Schools

I had a conversation with Dayton Daily News Editorial board member and former school reporter, Scott Elliott about my “strangely bad ideas” including where he scoffed about Sinclair Community College taking over Dayton Public Schools.

He did agree that the DPS brand is beyond tarnished, but, told me there was no precedent, or reason for it to happen.

I point you to the Boston University/Chelsea Partnership- where I guess someone else had a “strangely bad idea;”

The Boston University/Chelsea Partnership is the only example of a private university accepting responsibility for the day-to-day management of a public school system.

Boston University provides managerial and educational expertise to oversee and rebuild an entire urban school system and to construct a model for the reform of urban education. The challenges faced by the partnership in Chelsea are typical of those faced in economically disadvantaged urban areas throughout the United States. In June 1989, Boston University accepted the invitation of the Chelsea School Committee to manage the Chelsea Public Schools under a unique ten-year partnership agreement.

By unanimous vote of the Chelsea School Committee in 1997, that agreement was extended an additional five years. In June 2002, the School Committee once again voted to invite Boston University to extend the partnership, this time through June 2008.

The Boston University Chelsea Partnership remains the only instance in which a private university has accepted responsibility for the overall day-to-day management of a public school system. The University receives no monetary compensation for its work; rather, it provides managerial and educational expertise and oversight in order to rebuild an entire urban school system and to construct a model for the reform of urban education.

The challenges faced by the partnership in Chelsea are typical of those faced in economically disadvantaged urban areas throughout the United States.

via BU | School of Education.

Although Sinclair isn’t a 4 year school, with an education department (hello, Wright State and University of Dayton) Sinclair is already a partner with DECA, ISUS and the new David Ponitz High School which is grades 9-14.

With a City Commission that votes 5-0 almost always, and has only had a few 3-0-1 votes in the last four years- it’s a wonder any new ideas ever come to the table for discussion. Without floating ideas like this, how will we ever know what could be? In a conversation with the esteemed Dr. Ponitz, he shared his believes in the need for “creative dissonance” which help elevate the level of the discussion.

Apparently in Boston, someone floated my idea long ago- and it’s still working. Yet, Scott Elliott has no ideas of his own, nor is he willing to sign his name to a hatchet job in the editorial. Read my plan- share your thoughts, then try that on Nan Whaley’s or Joey D. Williams‘s sites.

College housing the Dayton way?

It’s not often that I quote myself in posts, but for this one, it seems appropriate- I wrote this back in January. I dedicated to F.B.- who didn’t make it out of the hospital, R.I.P. You are missed. Here is the excerpt:

Rooming houses, the regulated and inspected type, aren’t that much different from hotels that rent by the week or month, they just don’t have corporate branding attached. We find no problem with an “extended stay hotel”- but a rooming house is considered one step above a drug den.

Maybe as a strategy to bringing people back to Dayton and spark urban revitalization, we need to look at bringing back the rooming house as an accepted form of residential housing. Tough times, require some new looks at old ideas.

via Is it time for Dayton to rethink rooming houses?.

And here is another reason: Sinclair is having record enrollment. I heard 30K plus. And, not a single bit of “on campus” housing. Forcing students to drive- making parking a pain. Using lots of fossil fuels.

Aren’t these the potential young hipsters that upDayton wants to keep? Hmmm.

Now, let’s talk about UD. Remember the place they call “the ghetto”- well, drive through and it doesn’t look anything like a ghetto anymore. In fact, it looks like a really nice urban neighborhood with lots of young people walking the streets. But, it wasn’t always so.

The secret, is UD bought all the houses from a Ghetto lord who was making a lot of money. You see, renting a house by the month, or even the semester is only OK. You might get $600-$800 month in rent. Call a semester three months and you are at $1,800 to $2,400. But, divide it up and rent per person- and you ask $500 per semester- cram 2 people per room- in a three bedroom house- and you now have $9000 in rent. Ka-Ching!

Now, if you are just Ghetto lord, that’s bad. But if you are UD- it’s good.

And maybe, we should consider having Sinclair adopt a neighborhood and fill it full of students? Start with Five Oaks and Dayton View. Run shuttles back and forth. Fix up those big old homes and rent them out like hotels.

What- you say Sinclair shouldn’t be in the housing business? How right you are. Let’s let the private sector do it. WSU is having dorms built left and right by private business. How do we get this to happen? Take some of those boarded up homes and vacant lots and package them. Give a tax abatement equal to the dollars invested in the rehab. Maybe even offer students a tuition break for living in these rehabbed houses and helping repopulate the neighborhood- and getting involved in civic service in the neighborhoods.

Could we start seeing a decrease in boarded up vacant homes? Do you have a better idea?

Free speech is never free. Sinclair botches it.

I remember having to listen to various campus “preachers” at Wright State screaming at the top of their lungs about sin and damnation. Many overstepped their bounds. I remember one guy who liked to point at women dressed “provocatively” and yell “prostitute.” Needless to say- these people were a nuisance, they disturbed the peace and on one occasion, I remember one ending up in the moat “accidentally.”

These individuals, while expressing their rights of free speech, were doing so at the expense of others’ ability to study, enjoy the quad or to relax in a public place. The way to deal with them is to trespass them off for disturbing the peace. However, if they keep it down, and don’t force themselves or their literature on anyone- they should have every right to discuss anything they want from Scientology to Wicca.

Unfortunately, Sinclair seems to have decided it is above the First Amendment, and is trying to regulate the ability to speak on campus:

Four people were arrested and one was given a citation Wednesday, May 20, after a demonstration at Sinclair Community College got out of hand.

Charles Gift, director of public safety for Sinclair Community College, said campus police received a call about noon from a student who said demonstrators were disturbing her.

Officers spoke to the group, Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism, a ministry of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wis.

“Sinclair has set procedures for anyone who wants to speak on campus,” Gift said Wednesday night. “It is a public campus and we welcome anyone who wants to come and speak. All they have to do is follow the procedure.”

Gift said two members of the group were disorderly when they were told they could stay on campus if they got rid of their signs and did not distribute literature unless someone asked for it.

The two, a male and a female, were arrested.

via Demonstration at Sinclair ends in 4 arrests.

Of course, there is more to this story than what appears here, but no one is ever required to hand over a video recording device on demand:

According to Gift, the officer — who was not identified by name — noticed that a female in the group was recording the incident on either a camera phone or video camera.

The officer asked her for the device so a copy of the incident could be made, Gift said. She ran, hiding behind another male in the group. Both the female and male refused to turn over the device and, according to Gift, the man punched the officer in the face. (ibid)

This will be an expensive jaunt through the courts for both sides, when all could have been avoided with a little research on the subject of “campus speaking procedures” which have failed almost every time when tested in courts.

The real question is, what is Sinclair afraid of? What can anyone say that is truly that dangerous to the public? I witnessed much more vitriol at the “Dayton Tea Party” than I’ve ever seen from a campus preacher.

From the Dayton Tea Party: "Hitler gave great speeches"

From the Dayton Tea Party: "Hitler gave great speeches"

Institutions of higher learning should be bastions for free speech in this country, at least if we ever hope to aspire to the lofty expectations of the founding fathers.

If Sinclair were smart, it would try to work out a compromise immediately in exchange for no lawsuits and acknowledge that a misunderstanding took place and escalated by mistake of both parties. Let’s get back to educating and open discussion of issues. Another test case won’t do anyone any good.

Is Sinclair really as affordable as claimed? Textbook prices make no sense.

Algebra hasn’t changed that much in the last 50 years. Printing has. Even when the cost of four-color offset printing has dropped like a rock, textbook publishers are getting away with grand theft. At Sinclair Community College beginning Algebra costs $180- the books cost $156.

Three business books add even more to the price tag: Intro to Supervision is $115, Intro to Business is $160 and Interpersonal Communication comes in at $90.40

Total book prices: $521.40

Total tuition: $585

Anyone else have a problem with this?

And if you really want to read some good business books- I’d suggest a whole slew of best sellers, written by people who don’t have PhD after their name, that come in at under $25 a pop.

To make things even more tilted- some of the courses didn’t announce what books were required until today- the first day of classes. This thwarts students from seeking titles from online book providers where they can save at least 20% or more. The rule of P’s is very applicable here- “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” or in this case- Piss Poor Prices.

If universities and community colleges in Ohio really want to work to deliver a higher quality education for less, it’s time to investigate publishing or using existing open-access textbooks. If anyone can tell me why we can’t create a simple college-level algebra curriculum using free courseware tools like Moodle when we have at least 200+ PhD mathematicians on the State payroll- I’d be interested.

For some reason educators seem terrified of the open source tools for delivery of educational materials and resources for learning. I still hear stories of requiring Microsoft Office- on a PC instead of realizing that Google Docs is a real option- or even Open Office. Why are we demanding students use proprietary tools? Is to make sure Bill Gates recovers his position as the Worlds richest man? Afterall, he was a college drop out.

Sinclair’s new megalomania mission

Montgomery County voters have subsidized Sinclair Community College, over and over. Now, we’re subsidizing campuses in Warren county- and soon- Preble County.

Sinclair Community College will move forward with plans for a Preble County campus, following a decision from its executive committee.

Campus officials said the executive committee voted to pass a resolution Monday to accept an invitation from a nonprofit organization in Preble County to open a satellite campus attached to the Preble County YMCA.

Sinclair to proceed with Preble County campus – Dayton Business Journal:.

I have no problems with Sinclair growing- I just want other communities to share in the burden. Just charging more in tuition isn’t enough. Everyone pays for Sinclair in Montgomery County- yet, not all of us use it. Time for equality.

What’s the plan candidates?

Next year, Dayton gets to chose a majority of the seats on the Dayton City Commission. The Mayor, Nan Whaley and Joey Williams are up for reelection.

Last cycle- Dean Lovelace and Matt Joseph ran unopposed. That can’t happen again.

“Counting to three” is the key phrase among Commission watchers- you have to be able to get three votes to get something passed, so this is an opportunity for “regime change” in Dayton. Richard Florida slams our leadership on the DDN editorial blog:

‘Creative Class’ guru loves Dayton | A Matter of Opinion
“Another thing the region suffers from is really poor leadership. And I think the reason that is, it really bears the imprint, that as the economy is changing to newer things, away from manufacturing, the leadership still reflects that top-down, vertical, 1950s organization mentality. So you get these conflicts between old-style democratic political machine and business-led organizations.

“Those conflicts become very dysfunctional. I think one of the other things is that if older cities could achieve better leadership, leadership that was more in tune with the future.

Note the suck up comments by Democratic Party patronage princess Sarah Abernathy chiding Florida for offering an opinion.

The reality is- we’ve got too many chiefs in the region- and none of them are actually leading us anywhere. See the poll from the Dayton Biz Journal: Who should lead? The fact that they have to ask is an indication of trouble in the Gem city.

With the low level of intelligent discussion about real goals at almost every level of government (talking about what a candidates preacher said, or personal affairs as measures of leadership) instead of issues is an epidemic in this country.

So what should be Dayton’s new leaders goals and objectives?

Here’s a starter list:

Restore faith in Dayton Public Schools through innovative partnerships that create marketable differences between DPS and suburban districts. Examples: every graduate gets 2 years free at Sinclair (not a big deal, because it’s already almost there for suburban districts through TechPrep). Laptops for every student with free wi-fi. New alignment for sports where we have an “Athletic track” high school with the best sports program in the region (We already have an Arts school that does this- Stivers).

Establish goals for:

Increasing population (which brings increasing income tax collections), filling vacant homes in “healthy neighborhoods” first.

Foster community pride by working on shared objectives- this can be the goals above, or maybe creating a citywide fitness goal program, urging everyone to work out (neighborhood walks every night at 8pm, or organize community sports programs). This has been done in other cities.

Reinvent citizen participation: Dayton’s Priority Board system is a mere shell of what it once was. Time to reinvent. Scrap the 7 districts- become one city again and have neighborhood association presidents meet 4x a year directly with the Mayor and City Manager to work together for the betterment of all.

Focus on small business: Waiting for the “Silver bullet” to walk into Dayton and put a huge number of jobs in place is suicidal. We need to grow our own and measure the number of small business start-ups and encourage it. If we are really a city of innovation as many people like to promote, lets prove it by being the start-up capital of the heartland. With our low cost of living, reasonable cultural attractions, high concentration of academia and military research, this should be easy if we enable and empower the process.

Reward smarts: In Austin Texas the newspaper publishes lists of local patents that are granted. Not only should we do it (I suggested it to DDN editor Max Jennings long ago) but maybe we should have a local fund that spiffs cash for every patent granted. Why not reward good ideas from locals- instead of giving handout corporate welfare to carpetbaggers?

These are just a few ideas. Do you have anymore? Anyone want to run for Commission (start getting your signatures now, you need a minimum of 500 in January from registered Dayton voters- I only needed 50 to run for Congress).

If you want to see change, we need to change the way we approach elections. Starting NOW!