Hi Blog. I’m on vacation, I know, but duty calls. My school has a tie-up with a (very good) English-language program here in Santa Cruz, California. And yet budget cuts are eliminating it. First an article that came out in the local newspaper, The Santa Cruz Sentinel (which, despite the reporting, sees a lot more than three jobs affected). Then my letter from the perspective of a participant to the people in charge, including the University of California Regents and California Governor Schwarzenegger. Then a August 19 follow up article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Arudou Debito in Santa Cruz
UC Extension to close Santa Cruz office, close two programs
SANTA CRUZ — After years of fighting a mounting deficit, UC Extension will close its Santa Cruz office and eliminate two instructional programs affecting more than 2,000 students, a university official confirmed Tuesday.
Alison Galloway, vice provost for academic affairs who oversees UCSC’s Extension programs, said the University Town Center office in downtown will close in the spring after the final classes of the English Language International ELI and Science Illustration courses are taught. Galloway said three full-time jobs in student support services will be cut at the end of September, and other employees will be transferred to the UCSC Extension office in Cupertino.
Galloway said she made the tough call to shutter the Santa Cruz programs in recent days, and laid-off employees have received notice. Word of the cuts were beginning to spread through the university Tuesday.
“It’s incredibly upsetting — many of these staff have worked for us for many years,” Galloway said. “It is extremely hard on those who lost their job.”
Galloway, an anthropology professor who was appointed to her administrative position last September, said the cuts will free an estimated $1 million annually to address a $30 million debt load racked up in recent years by the UCSC Extension. The extension, which does not receive state funding, is supposed to be self supporting through tuition revenue, but in recent years has borrowed money from the university to stay afloat.
She said the cost of running the ELI and science programs — a combination of instructor pay, facilities costs and support staff salaries — are more than double the $1.8 million in annual revenue brought in by tuition. The cuts come a year after the program closed its arts and humanities course to save money.
“The problem is we have a very strong program, but it can’t carry the weight of everything else,” she said. “It’s very hard to make enough to cover overhead. We’re not looking to make a profit, but we have to be able to cover payroll.”
Galloway said closing the office at 1101 Pacific Ave. will save about $750,000 in rent per year, and the overall program will realize more savings by eventually closing classroom space in Sunnyvale. The job savings will amount to more than $200,000.
The office in Cupertino, which offers a range of high-tech courses, will be UCSC Extension’s only remaining site.
Galloway said the debt was caused partially by the program’s inability to adjust after the dot-com bust. The extension did offered a number of tech-related courses even after Silicon Valley’s bubble burst about eight years ago.
“We didn’t adapt quickly enough,” she said.
The ELI program teaches English to students from across the globe, including Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Faculty and students couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, and several staff members declined to be interviewed or did not immediately return calls.
Prior students have hailed the program as an effective way to learn English in an idyllic setting.
“Santa Cruz is one of the most beautiful and wonderful city I have ever seen,” Bill Henney Mikolo Mireilee, a 2005 student from the Congo, wrote for the program’s Web site. “ELI staff is a wonderful team always ready to help at any time. Thanks to all of you.”
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From: Arudou Debito, Associate Professor
Hokkaido Information University
(contact details omitted)
To: Professor Galloway, Chancellor Blumenthal, Provost Kliger, President Yudof, Governor Schwarzenegger, and Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Dear Madams and Sirs:
I write to you as a participant in UC Santa Cruz’s UC Extension, English Language International Program. Since 2002, I have escorted dozens of students from Hokkaido Information University in Hokkaido, Japan, as an Associate Professor at HIU.
As a fellow educator, I beg you to reconsider your decision to close down the ELI Program. This letter is to make a case from the position of a customer, offering you a view that the accountants, considering the bottom line, may have underconsidered regarding the importance of this program:
THE ELI PROGRAM’S BENEFITS TO OUR STUDENTS
1) Collegiality. My students are generally low-level in terms of language ability (we have no English majors at our computer- and information science-oriented university), but they have come back every year with rave reviews about the ELI Program. After a month here, they have met students from all over the world (ELI has set attendance records year on year), learning that there are many countries out there they can talk to if they learn English; for Japanese students in particular, who generally grow up in a monolingual environment, this is a prime opportunity to get over their longstanding self-imposed communication barriers. They return to Japan aflush with positive feelings about language learning and other societies in general, with minds more opened to the outside world.
2) American university style. My students have been given time to settle in (and get over their jetlag) while interfacing with the gorgeous UCSC campus. They experience American-style dorm life and American college dining. What other chance will they have in their life to feel like an American college student?
3) American family life. My students through their three-week homestays receive a wide spectrum of experiences and lifestyles, reporting back to me every incident of culture shock, then every minor or major victory they felt when overcoming it. They learn more about cultural diversity, tolerance, and more self-assertive lifestyles. They also realize that it is possible to live in a multicultural society–something Japan as a whole (with its aging and falling population) will have to consider in future.
All of these are reinforced by the professional, courteous, friendly, and helpful staff at the ELI, with whom the atmosphere is like summer camp with classes and extramural activities. The ELI Program has offered us the gamut, and for that reason I fully support its educational aims. Moreover:
THE MUTUAL BENEFITS TO THE SANTA CRUZ COMMUNITY
Although the above may be found in other programs, why the UCSC ELI closing in particular is painful is because of the storybook atmosphere of the Santa Cruz community, found in few (if any) other communities in the United States:
1) The self-contained community of Santa Cruz. I feel secure turning my students loose on this town. The people here are tolerant, friendly and helpful, moreover now used to dealing with non-native speakers due to the ELI’s long tenure here. The bus service is good, meaning cars are not necessary to get around (try saying this about, for example, Los Angeles or San Diego). Students become so self-confident and self-contained that, within a week, I as their escort feel put out to pasture, checking in only once a day to be bombarded with questions from my students about this or that new phrase they kept hearing.
2) The safe, storybook Downtown area. We have it all. From Farmers Market right outside our front door every Wednesday, to fifteen movies every day in three movie theaters within minutes’ walk. From organic supermarkets to 24-hour drugstores. From Victorian-style homes to a fun and historic Santa Cruz boardwalk, pier, and beach. From Sequoias and a gorgeous UCSC Campus, to nearby attractions in San Francisco, Monterey, and Yosemite. Moreover, the Downtown is laid out in a grid pattern you would find in many textbooks. Again, try saying this about other cities in the United States or coastal California.
3) The natural beauty and climate. I am sure that Californians are used to the climate, but many students from around the world are not. The Santa Cruz area is perfect in terms of balance of temperature and sunshine. Do your classes, go outside and relax, and join in on ELI’s well-organized afternoon and evening events. You simply aren’t going to find all this in places like Silicon Valley, Berkeley, or the larger metropolises (or more insular small towns) around the country. Again, it’s the perfect balance.
In sum, Santa Cruz is a gem of a community, and the ELI a gem of a program. Without the UC System adequately considering the benefits given to both our students (who get a very favorable first impression of another country) and to the residents of Santa Cruz (who have the experience of meeting people from overseas, not to mention an influx of tourism dollars, and potential open markets once these students become overseas decisionmakers later in life), I firmly believe you are doing a great disservice by closing down the UCSC’s ELI.
Again, I beg you to reconsider your decision. My students want to come back to ELI again next year. So would I. It is an unmitigated joy to be here, and a great investment in the future communities of Santa Cruz, California, and the world in general.
Arudou Debito, Associate Professor
Hokkaido Information University
Faculty, staff, union question decision to ax Extension program
SANTA CRUZ – Last week’s announcement that UCSC Extension would close its doors shocked instructors, staff and clients, who had hoped a record summer enrollment would be a life preserver for the program’s sinking debt.
Chris Fatham, one of several faculty members in the English Language International program who are expected to lose their jobs, said thousands of students from more than 50 countries are the real victims.
Fathman and other employees question whether the university’s decision to pull the plug in the face of a $30 million deficit was short-sighted given the program’s rising demand. They say the program, which served Fulbright scholars and Humphrey Fellows from Iraq, also met a need for more international students on campus and was a boon to downtown merchants.
“From what we have been told, ELI was actually making a profit and doing quite well,” said Fatham. “I’m really quite surprised that a small city like Santa Cruz … would want to lose something as valuable as this.”
Until receiving word Aug. 11 that the program would be axed, several Language International employees said they had been celebrating enrollment and revenue figures that far exceeded expectations.
But Alison Galloway, the vice provost for academic affairs, who made the decision to close the program, repeated a claim Monday that she made last week. She said English Language International overhead – including $750,000 in annual rent at the University Town Center, as well as staff and faculty pay – far outpace revenue.
“It is correct in that they had met the targets – they have done a really good job,” Galloway said of the staff’s efforts to increase revenue. “Unfortunately, the program is extremely expensive to run. Every time they generated more income, they were generating more expenses.”
Galloway plans by spring to close the language program and trim 14 full-time staff positions plus instructors, who are hired on an as-needed basis. Other jobs will be transferred to the UCSC Extension office in Cupertino.
But critics have suggested the university, which has been underwriting what is supposed to be a self-supporting program, wipe out the red ink.
“The university should forgive the debt, not only in the name of continued education services, but in the name of saving jobs,” said Nora Hochman, a representative of the Coalition of University Employees, which represents staff.
University officials said it was unclear if such a move would be possible, considering the program continues to operate at a deficit and the whole university will suffer if lawmakers agree on education cuts in coming weeks.
Galloway said there are discussions under way about finding space for English Language International on the main UCSC campus, but she said there are no guarantees.
“In the heart of campus, I don’t think they want to lose us,” said Carol G. Johnson, sales and marketing manager, who is being laid off next month. “But the need to cut costs was so dire, we were kind of sacrificed.”
The interpretations of the fiscal picture among administrators and employees has cast a cloud of confusion over the closure. English Language International’s director, Susan Miller, declined to provide exact budget figures.
But Johnson said the program originally budgeted about $2 million in revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1, but has raised 21 percent more in revenue through increased enrollment. She said the university had asked leaders to produce more income and contribute a greater percentage of the revenue to overhead costs.
Johnson said exceeding both those goals made the closure all the more shocking. She the summer program’s enrollment of 384 students – who stay in Town Center dorm rooms, with host families or on campus – exceeded last year’s total of 323.
“We had the biggest summer and the biggest spring,” she said, boasting they had students from 51 countries this summer.
In an e-mail to university officials, one of the program’s clients, Arudou Debito, an associate professor Hokkaido Information University in Japan, wrote, “As a fellow educator, I beg you to reconsider your decision to close down the ELI program.” He said the course helped his students “return to Japan aflush with positive feelings about language learning and other societies in general, with minds more opened to the outside world” and “learn more about cultural diversity, tolerance and more self-assertive lifestyles.”