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to build new suite-
style residence
halls to house those
students, adding
almost 2,300 beds.
Cutting energy
costs was another
issue. “No one was
thinking green
then, except for
money,” Armenti
said. In addition
to using better
controls to heat
buildings classroom
by classroom,
California put in geothermal piping to heat its new
dormitories. The system for the first three cost $1 million,
but it paid for itself in two and a half years. The same payback
occurred for the next three dormitories, so the university is
now saving $800,000 a year in electricity costs.
California boosted its enrollment by 45 percent in the last
ten years to 8,519 students (7,478 full-time equivalent) last
academic year. Overall, the 14 schools in the state system grew
by 18.5 percent in that period, and this fall the system set its
eighth straight enrollment record, 116,935 students.
A big reason behind California University’s enrollment
increase, Armenti said, is that it got into online learning early.
“The economics of Internet education are that when the
world is in your catchment area, you can easily fill all of your
classes,” he said. Twenty-two percent of California’s student
registrations are online.
“We are obviously not going to compete with the giants
in the field,” Armenti added, but the school offers niche
programs, those with promise in terms of demand and with
little competition from other schools. These include sports
management, legal studies and exercise science. Global Online
also offers certification programs for principals as well as a
master of science in nursing administration.
“The investment you have to make in this area is
considerable,” Armenti said. That includes $1 million for
high quality service programs on financial aid and customer
relations. “You still have to assuage the doubts of the public
about this new kind of education,” he added.
“In no way are these correspondence courses,” said John
R. Cencich, interimdean of California University’s School of
Graduate Studies and Research. “We have video and audio in
them, animations, and quality control.” Faculty members are
taught how to set up the courses and obtain fast technical help.
Cencich said the staffmakes sure the courses are user-friendly;
content is peer reviewed.
California is also working in emerging fields such as
robotics. In cooperation with Carnegie Mellon University
in Pittsburgh, California has a $3.4 million grant from the
Defense Department to develop public school curricula to help
hook students on science through robotics. California also
launched its own robotics curriculum this fall, leading toward
an associate’s degree in robotics engineering technology, and
then a bachelor’s degree inmechatronics (a combination of
mechanical and electronic engineering) technology.
These are not StarWars or Terminator robots, explained
Anthony F. Rodi, director of California University’s National
Center for Robotics Engineering Technology Education.
“Robotics is used inmany ways, such as embedded robotics
when you start your car, or medical robotics,” he said. “A
surgeon in the United States can operate on a patient in India.”
Robotics can also be used to “keep people away from the dull,
dangerous, dirty work and repetitive movement that leads to
injury.”
Michael F. Amrhein, the center’s assistant director, added
that these courses teach a different way of thinking about how
tasks are done. The classes teach skill sets, such as presentation
and project management, that can be used in different
industries.
Like the state universities, community colleges are also
seeing enrollment increases this fall, a common occurrence
when the economy turns sour. The Community College of
Beaver County, for example, had a ten percent credit-hour
enrollment increase during the summer session, a trend that
continued this fall, giving the school its highest fall enrollment
ever.
Community colleges have no direct taxing power, so they
depend on county government or local school districts for
part of their support. And Joe Forrester, the college president,
complimented Beaver County commissioners for twice
increasing taxes to help support the college, “both times in
election years.” Under the act establishing the colleges, they are
supposed to receive one-third of their support from the state,
one-third from local government, and one-third from tuition.
“In theory, that’s great, but it’s never the reality,” Forrester
said. “Fifty percent of our revenue comes from students.” On
top of tuition of $89.50 per credit hour, his students pay a
general student fee of $11 per credit hour, and a technology fee
of $11 per credit hour.
Trying to hold costs down,
Forrester said that his school
did the standard things like
cutting the amount of paper
used. “But we also took a hard
look at the class schedule” and
pledged to reduce it by seven
percent.
“We ended up canceling
53 sections,” said Judy
Garbinski, provost and vice
president for learning and
student success. Those cuts
affected all departments, with
the exception of allied health
professions. Inmaking the cuts,
Garbinski said, there was an
attempt to remainmindful that
80 percent of the college’s 2,400
(full-time equivalent) students
work, and that it was necessary
to consider the times they
could be on campus.
Student aid was affected as
“It used to be that
fundraising was
important for private
universities, but now
public universities are
just as heavily involved.”
—Graham Spanier,
president of Penn State
Angelo Armenti Jr., president of California
University of Pennsylvania, says his school is
being “privatized without a plan.”
Michael Robinson, Black Star, for CrossTalk