Monday, December 7, 2015

Can You Afford It?

That is broad question as it usually means if you cannot afford it then you don't buy it. When it comes to going to College that seems to be a non-starter.

Can't seem to win on either as we are told repeatedly that having a degree will be the road to riches. And that piece of paper is akin to a deed when you leave as it is often the cost of a luxury car or a down payment to a house that you can no longer afford with a lifetime of debt that is supposedly a guarantee that you will get a better job to pay them off.

Well the Obama's proved it as they had student debt until they entered the White House, so see kids it's true! And when you go out to eat you don't order food you cannot eat or don't want. But apparently in College  you do and that, like the athletic fees I wrote about earlier, you pay whether you use it or not. Well that is equality right? Perhaps set up a protest or a safe space about that.  

Meal Plan Costs Tick Upward as Students Pay for More Than Food
The New York Times
 DEC. 5, 2015

 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Before his 35-mile commute through Appalachian hills to classes here at the University of Tennessee, Michael Miceli eats a gigantic breakfast. It is his way of getting through the day without spending money on a campus lunch.

Food deprivation is merely one trick Mr. Miceli uses to minimize his college debt, now creeping past $22,000. So the $300 bill he got from the university this semester — for food — sent him into a tailspin. “I was in near panic at the thought of having to borrow more money,” said Mr. Miceli, 23, a linguistics major.

For the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a “Top 25” public university.

Tennessee’s contract with its dining vendor, Aramark, is just one example of how universities nationwide are embracing increasingly lucrative deals with giant dining contractors, who offer commissions and signing bonuses to help pay for campus improvements and academic programs. It is part of a new model of raising money through partnerships with private vendors, officials say, and with state funding for higher education still below pre-recession levels, a way to replace lost revenue.

Under its contract, which runs through 2027, Tennessee will get 14 percent of all food revenues plus $15.2 million in renovations to dining facilities. In exchange for signing a 20-year contract that runs through 2034, the University of Virginia recently got a $70 million contribution from Aramark, based in Philadelphia — in addition to $19 million in renovations and annual commissions increasing to $19 million a year.

Texas A&M announced a 10-year deal in 2012 with Chartwells, a subsidiary of the British-based Compass Group, that included a $22.7 million signing bonus and $25 million in capital investments. Universities frequently announce the windfalls with great fanfare, but critics say the cost gets passed on to students and contributes to the expense of college. Tom Mac Dermott, a dining consultant who works with universities, said upfront payments were built into the price of the meal plans.

“When you keep tacking on this stuff, the cost of the plan goes up.” President Obama mocked gourmet college food in a speech in February at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, suggesting that it raised college costs.

And meal plan fees are increasing annually at many schools, driven partly by demands that food be locally sourced, freshly made and hormone-free. Yet the particulars of the contracts reveal that much of the meal plan cost does not go for an individual’s food. Colleges use the money to shore up their balance sheets, create academic programs and scholarships, fund special “training tables” to feed athletes, and pay for meals for prospective students touring campus. Like many such deals, Texas A&M’s agreement with Chartwells comes with a catch, Mr. Mac Dermott said.

If Texas A&M wants to cancel the deal, a pro rata portion of the money must be repaid. “Suppose the operator isn’t doing well over time?” Mr. Mac Dermott said. “The university can’t get rid of them. The investments are made on the guarantee that if the contract is terminated by either party, the client will return the money. That’s not a gift.” But Phillip Ray, A&M’s vice chancellor for business affairs, said there was no clawback if the contract were terminated for cause.

 “People say, ‘You’ve signed this big deal, now they own you,’ ” Mr. Ray said. “Not at all. We call the shots.” In 2013, the year after A&M entered its agreement, several dining facilities there were temporarily closed by the county health department, which found rodent droppings and a roach infestation. Other colleges have deals that offer sweeteners — renovations to the president’s house, private parties catered for employees, free meals for athletic officials in exchange for free football tickets.

These arrangements, which auditors have criticized, can create revenue streams outside the normal budgeting process for funding pet projects, raising the potential of abuse. At South Carolina State University, a historically black institution, a 2014 audit found that students paid $343 a year in “hidden costs” for food. The money was rebated to the institution by its vendor, Sodexo, a French company, partly to pay for a $5 million wellness center, which was never built. The university, under new leadership, said it has ceased the practices described.

 An audit this year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette found that the food vendor catered free parties for children of a university employee while inflating bills to the university. In a response to the audit, the university said the employee had repaid the fees.

 For food vendors, one of the critical components in turning a profit is a guaranteed revenue stream. Hofstra University on Long Island announced in 2013 that it would require a minimum buy-in from all residential students. Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., will require participation by even seniors who live in dormitories with kitchens next year, said Skyler Golann, chairman of the student dining committee.

“There’s definitely been a backlash,” said Mr. Golann, a sophomore from Hinesburg, Vt. Brandeis said the requirement would help pay to renovate dining halls without increasing tuition and other fees.

This is how mandatory meal plans have become a political issue, both on campus and off. The New Jersey General Assembly last year adopted a ban on mandatory meal plans, although it was never approved by the Senate. “Some colleges were particularly egregious in requiring high-cost meal plans,” said Assemblyman Joseph P. Cryan, who sponsored the legislation. Meal plans at some private schools cost more than $3,000 a semester. The mandatory meal plans that have created the biggest controversies are those imposed on students who live off campus.

One of the first protests arose in Alabama, where students at several universities sued to block the plans, but the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against them in 2011. Danny Evans, a Birmingham lawyer for the students, said that since his lawsuit, the idea has “gone viral,” spreading to other colleges.

This year, in addition to the University of Tennessee, colleges ranging from Loyola New Orleans to Suffolk County Community College on Long Island — a commuter school with no dormitories — have announced mandatory commuter meal fees. Responding to complaints, administrators said dining was important for commuters because it fostered campus community, citing studies showing that students with meal plans stay in school longer.

Administrators here at the University of Tennessee, where a $1,899-per-semester meal plan is mandatory for freshmen who live on campus, first floated the requirement that other students buy a $300-per-semester meal plan at a meeting two years ago. Grant Davis, a student who attended the meeting, at which Aramark served lobster ravioli, said, “We knew we were being greased.”

 Students protested the plan, garnering more than 1,000 signatures practically overnight on a petition titled “Don’t Force Feed Us.” Phase 1 of the new student union building, heralded as the cornerstone of a campus transformation, opened this year, with a Chick-fil-A, Subway, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Starbucks and several other restaurants. Students can get refunds if they do not eat the food, but experience at other schools shows that most succumb to the fast-food temptations.

 Mr. Miceli, a senior from Dandridge, Tenn., intends to ask for a refund. Even so, he said, he regards the money as a loan to the university that he could not afford

And meanwhile why sports and athletic directors are the big earners at public universities, and adjunct professors pic up the slack the Private schools are ensuring their status as truly unaffordable as their chancellors and deans are hitting the CEO mark when it comes to salary.

Funny I was told when you entered the education field it was lowly paid, highly challenging and a work that pays in dividends, just not the stock kind. I guess I chose the wrong field in public ed. Well you gotta eat. Maybe they can give them a meal ticket as a benefit instead.

  Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds
 The New York Times
DEC. 6, 2015

Despite pressure on institutions of higher learning to hold down costs, the compensation of private college presidents continues to climb, up 5.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 to a median of $436,000, according to an annual survey.

 The ranking of salaries at 497 colleges contained some expected names among the top 10 earners in 2013, including Columbia University’s Lee C. Bollinger, the longest-serving president of an Ivy League university.

Mr. Bollinger’s compensation totaled $4.6 million, which the university said included $1.17 million in base pay, an incentive payment of $940,000, use of a university residence, and other deferred compensation, placing him at No. 1 on the list. Ranking second is the University of Pennsylvania’s Amy Gutmann, who received just over $3 million, according to the survey, by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a publication that specializes in news for college faculty and administrators. Ms. Gutmann’s compensation included a salary of about $1.17 million and a bonus of nearly $1.48 million according to the survey. But the list also contained some surprises.

Placing third is the president of High Point University, a relatively obscure school in North Carolina with an enrollment of about 4,000. The university’s president, Nido Qubein, received $2.9 million, which included a $2.2 million deferred compensation distribution.

 No. 4 is Richard M. Joel, president of Yeshiva University in New York, regarded as the flagship college of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Mr. Joel’s compensation, $2.5 million, was notable in light of Yeshiva’s ongoing financial difficulties since 2008, when it lost about $100 million that had been invested with Bernard Madoff, a former university trustee.

 In 2009, Mr. Joel announced layoffs and a hiring and pay freeze. Since then, the university’s bonds have been downgraded to below investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which last year cited “continued weakening of the university’s financial viability” and a “rapid deterioration of unrestricted liquidity.”

 In a statement, Yeshiva University said Mr. Joel’s compensation in 2013 was because of a one-time payment that covered six years of deferred compensation. Since then, Mr. Joel requested that his compensation be reduced by $100,000 in 2014, and reduced by an additional $50,000 this year, the university said. Mr. Joel recently announced that he would step down as president in 2018 at the end of his current term.

Rounding out the Top 10 list were the presidents of Vanderbilt University, Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, New York University and the University of Southern California. Their compensation exceeded $1 million each. In all, 32 university presidents received $1 million or more in compensation during the year, a slight decline from the previous year, when the number was 36. Since 2008, 77 presidents have appeared on the list of millionaires at least once.

The survey is conducted annually by The Chronicle. This year, a similar survey of public universities by The Chronicle revealed that salaries at those institutions were also up, by 7 percent. The data, reflecting the most recent period available in reports required by the government, appears to show that even during a time when colleges are under pressure to hold down costs, boards remain generous with their chief executives.

 “From talking to boards of trustees, often what we hear is that they’ll pay whatever they have to to retain the talent at their institutions,” said Sandhya Kambhampati, a database reporter for The Chronicle. “There’s a finite number of people available for these positions.” The chairman of Columbia’s board, Jonathan D. Schiller, praised Mr. Bollinger in a statement released by the university.

“Under his leadership, we see Columbia is performing at a level and achieving a standing it has not enjoyed in many years, solidifying its place at the top rank of the world’s great universities,” the statement said. Mr. Qubein’s compensation at High Point was dramatically higher than compensation at similar universities, according to The Chronicle. Among colleges considered peers were Elizabethtown, where Carl J. Strikwerda received $316,299 in compensation, and Messiah, where Kim S. Phipps received $359,531.

Both those colleges are in Pennsylvania. At High Point, Mr. Qubein has made news for a $2 billion improvement campaign. A successful businessman and motivational speaker before becoming president, Mr. Qubein has also donated part of his personal fortune to the university, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

 In a statement emailed to The New York Times, a university spokeswoman, Pam Haynes, said Mr. Qubein had raised $275 million for the university and was among its most generous donors.

 Quoting the university’s board chairman, Richard Vert, the statement said, “It would be impossible to compensate Dr. Qubein for the incredible results he delivers.”

 Forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service covering the fiscal year 2013 reveal that the university has reported “business transactions with related persons,” which can sometimes be regarded as presenting potential conflicts of interest.

 For example, a company called Creative Services Inc., which provides public relations and marketing, is owned by Mr. Qubein’s children, but the university said that the relationship predated Mr. Qubein’s appointment as president. The university banks with BB&T, where Mr. Qubein is on the board.

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