The Financialization of Education and Sonoma State University: Part III

by Adam
Published: Last Updated on

Ruben Armiñana, in tandem with irresponsible CSU administrators, have created the material conditions for the private take-over of public education

This is a four part series; read part I here, read part II here, and read part IV here.

By Danny Weil,


The mission of Sonoma State University (SSU) has been sacrificed on the altar of finances and more specifically, debt.  2012 promises to be a ‘debt laden’ and ‘cost shifting’ year for Sonoma State University, its students, faculty, and staff.  As the misery index rises, it promises to be a rip roaring year for Wall Street and the rash of bivouacking billionaires and millionaires who have occupied the SSU campus and taken over the Green Music Center (GMC) as their own privileged symphony hall.

The opening of the Chronicle, January 20, 2012 number XXI, entitled: New Year’s 2012 Forecast”, begins with this somber commentary:

“2012 promises stark contrasts between the haves and the have-nots. The Green Music Center (GMC) will open with much ado in September and the Student Center will follow shortly thereafter. Combined these two opulent buildings will have cost SSU over $192 million in construction alone. They leave a debt of over $200 million in their wake, which will take an annual $7 million off the top of SSU’s funding for the next 30 years. An additional, $3 million will be needed annually to fund GMC programming. Meanwhile, citing the Governor’s “budget trigger” the Administration is cutting classes for the spring term, increasing student graduation paths in the midst of massive fee increases. While hiring to ramp up the GMC, the Administration is not replacing retiring faculty and has capped student unit loads at 16” (Chronicle XXI, January 20, 2012).


Part one and two of this four part series itemized problems at the campus and attempted to contextualize them within the financialization of education.  The major claims made in this section, part three, is relatively straightforward and simple: SSU President, Ruben Armiñana’s irresponsible management of SSU and appalling stewardship of the public commons has meant:


1). students cannot get into SSU;

2). students who are currently attending SSU cannot get out of the college (i.e. graduate); and,

3). feckless and irresponsible administrative stewardship of SSU has dealt a severe and crippling blow to the public commons and public education in the State of California, specifically evident at SSU.


Before substantiating these claims, it is important to first look at the dreadful state of the hemorrhaging CSU system, itself teetering on the edge of annihilation.


This article will also briefly discuss the despotic decision making of President Ruben Armiñana.  We will look at how the administration autocratically conducted an illegal student election in an effort to raise $300 in student fees for the construction of yet another physical monstrosity – the $130,000,000 Student Center approved by Armiñana with groundbreaking already underway.  He pioneered the project, itself fueled by debt, knowing the depressive state of the American economy and the impoverished lives of our nation’s students.


The current state of the California State University system

We start with the current fiscal state of the entire California State University system (CSU).  On April 1, 2012 The Press Democrat, the local corporate newspaper for the Sonoma County area, reported that 2012 would be a record year for applications to the California State University (CSU) system and the University of California (UC) system.  A flood of about 600,000 applications to the nine-campus University of California and 23-school California State University systems have been received for spring 2012.  CSU’s 472,000 2012 freshman applications are a record, topping 426,000 for the fall of 2011, of which 219,000 were accepted (

Unfortunately, the California State University (CSU) system has announced that it will accept no new admissions for the spring semester of 2013 — with few exceptions.  Turning away record students from public institutions is all part of a drastic austerity, cost-cutting strategy to intentionally reduce enrollment by about 16,000 students by spring of 2013.  Another 20,000 to 25,000 qualified students might be barred from attending CSU in the 2013-14, academic year if California voters reject some sort of tax measure to increase revenue for the cash strapped public institutions of higher education.  (

CSU officials stated in March of this year that all admissions decisions for the campuses will be frozen pending the outcome of the 2012 election to raise California state taxes for higher education. This is not too long in the future, for the admissions process for the following fall begins in October.  San Francisco State University, for example, expects to turn away more than 1,500 students in spring 2013.

The only exception to new CSU admission policies adopted to bar the educational door to students will be 500 students who are part of a graduation-track transfer program authorized by the Legislature in 2011. Those students, currently in community colleges, will be allowed to transfer into eight CSU campuses only: San Francisco, Cal State East Bay, Sonoma, Channel Islands, Chico, Fullerton, Los Angeles and San Bernardino (ibid).   For students wishing a public education, the imposed austerity and attrition is devastating.


Those hurt the most by shifting the crimes of the one percent onto the backs of working people and the poor will be the thousands of students (mostly working students) — typically transfers from community colleges to four year state university systems.   These are students who characteristically flood CSU’s 23 campuses each spring to finish out their college education, acquire internships for medical, police or fire programs and hope to eventually graduate and start their careers.  The grim state of CSU affairs has created a quagmire for students who wish to receive a public education. There are 260,000 community college students in California.  What options are open to them given this current climate?  Their choices are vastly limited if not altogether curtailed.  Something is rotten in the state of California.


SSU stumbles into 2012 with a self-inflicted wound coupled with CSU woes

It would be easy to read and digest the statistics above and then pivot and blame the current state of economic crisis wholly on the CSU system and the dire economic situation the State of California finds itself in.  But that would miss the point of what has happened at SSU under the mini-investment bank authority of CEO Ruben Armiñana.

Using magician deflection techniques, Armiñana would like to redirect criticism from his administration and the myriad problems that plague the college and deflect them squarely onto the back of the Governor of the State of California or chalk the whole situation up to the retched financial situation of the California State University system.  But anyone who has figured out the magician’s hoax won’t be fooled.  SSU is caught between an admission freeze and mounting debt that has delivered a self-inflicted wound to the college that could see it go bankrupt.

Authors of the Chronicle concur with this claim, writing at the beginning of this year:

“Here, internal crises are obscured under statewide budget cuts as an excuse to shift additional funds from the Academic side to University-wide use in development. At SSU, new space, utilities, employee benefits, and GMC debt service are added to the budget cuts. The only “new space” at SSU are the GMC and the dorms. Both of these should reimburse the University Directly for their Costs as these are not “general fund” buildings” (the Chronicle XXI, January 20, 2012).


All of this subterfuge, the financial shell game and budget finagling on behalf of the upper echelon of the college are not having the desired effect of convincing a faculty, who voted overwhelmingly for a vote of no-confidence in the current SSU administration, that all is well at SSU.  The message that the current mess plaguing SSU can be relegated only to federal and state budget cuts flies in the face of the cacophony of dirt movers and the incessant jingle of back up bells from the university’s perpetual, debt-ridden construction site.


Students can’t get into Sonoma State University: Debt drives admission and curriculum as freshman are prioritized to pay off Wall Street

A preference for freshman as commodities to pay-down debt

The onerous implication of all of this is that Armiñana has, through the corporatization and financialization of the college, set up a pecuniary and discriminatory quota system for privileged admission to the university based on debt levels.  The Armiñana corporate business plan for SSU, Inc. has meant that the most covetous bodies are those of freshmen and the freshmen class at SSU has grown by leaps and bounds.  So, for example, in 2012, 1,779 of the SSU students being admitted, or 24 percent, were freshmen, compared to 11 percent in 1996.

Armiñana himself went so far as to publicly concede the inordinate number of freshman enrollees:


“Currently SSU has approximately 8,500 students, with the largest ever freshman class of 1,800. There are approximately ten applications for every seat available” (Foundation minutes, 9-23-11, as quoted in the Chronicle XXII: State of the University, 2012, March 19, 2012).

From a legal point of view this quota system may be unlawful and could subject SSU to lawsuits if the practice of institutionalized inequality in admissions due to fiscal quotas persists.

In their 2012 New Year’s report on the state of SSU, the Chronicle reported that the bulk of SSU’s new enrollees were indeed primarily freshman:


“SSU appears to receive a greater share of freshman applications than the system and SSU certainly enrolls a greater percent. In Fall 2011, 63.4% of SSU’s new enrollees were freshman (italics mine); system wide averaged 46.7% freshman (CSU New Student Applications and Admissions, November 30, 2011)” as quoted in Chronicle XXII: State of the University, 2012, March 19, 2012).


The authors go on to note in the same report:


“Until State appropriations rise and allow for an increase in enrollment, SSU will be in a downward spiral—over enrolling large classes of freshmen to fill the dorms(italics mine), then unable to field sufficient classes to enable 4-year graduation paths, making more students each year with fewer classes.  …… Full dorms and meal plans generate revenue. No one should doubt that at SSU debt drives curriculum” (The Chronicle, Chronicle XXII: State of the University, 2012, March 19, 2012).

What the authors are basically claiming by their statement that “debt drives the curriculum” is that debt service and payment on the principal owed in bonds is to be paid with future revenues derived from students.  This is a way of pointing to the fact that prioritized admission at SSU depends on the college filling its dormitories with mostly freshman. Why?  Simple: Armiñana pledged ‘phantom’ future revenues in the form of prospective freshman dormitory sales (which include the mandatory purchase of full-meal tickets), parking and general food sales at the campus to pay bondholders.  SSU is now little more than a petty hustler campus on the prowl for deep-pocketed freshman to pay the never ending ‘vig’ on the capital construction bonds.

Clearly students are mere commodities in this financial farce fueled and perpetrated by pompous ignorance and delusions of power; the only value students have for the new vassals of the neo-feudal arrangement of debt peonage is mere ‘exchange value’.  They are thought of as heads of cattle, ‘meat in the seat’ to be used by the one percent to pledge as future revenues and thereby secure or service debt for the banks and for the bond holders. Education is simply what is sold; the real business is in issuing, managing and servicing debt and deriving exorbitant salaries as a coordinating class for doing so.

The problem that students face is not simply the exorbitant fees and tuition that keeps them from entering SSU or many other institutions of higher learning, it is also employment.  The dilemma: there is no employment.

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Black youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age in the United States increased from 34.7 to 40.5 percent between February and March 2012; while the “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age increased from 27.5 to 30.5 percent during the same period, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In addition, the “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age increased from 21.3 to 22.5 percent between February and March 2012; while the official jobless rate for all U.S. workers between the ages of 16 and 19 years-of-age increased from 23.8 to 25 percent during the same period (

Armiñana would argue that the problem lies with the state budget, but even if the budget was intact SSU would have to look for more and more incoming freshman bodies to pay debt.  The college and the students that it serves seem to be all laced to debt peonage while Armiñana and his crew rake in outlandish salaries; but no one seems to notice other than a few vocal and concerned faculty.

The problem, of course, is that students not only don’t have jobs or money to fill their pockets to even be considered as ‘revenue numbers’, for they too have excruciating and crushing debt.  Though many of their parents help with all or partial payment of dormitories, meal tickets and tuition and fees at SSU, as the so-called middle class continues a death spiral downwards, this will be harder and harder for parents to sustain.   The highly compensated throng of administrators at SSU knows this and sensing that their positions might be in jeopardy, they are busy manufacturing new schemes in an effort to concretize their coveted seats and highly paid positions.  One can be sure these new innovations planned for SSU involve further financialization, privatization and corporatization of the college to the detriment of its constituencies.

Santa Rosa Junior College transfer students locked out by SSU’s financial quota favoring freshman students


The consequences of all of Armiñana’s short term thinking on behalf of his edifice fantasies is that as SSU concentrates on implementing a financial quota for admissions by admitting freshman wholly for debt service, fewer transfer students from the community colleges, and especially from Santa Rosa Junior College (which lies just eight miles north of SSU) are able to attend the university.  Where once the California Master Plan for California’s UC’s, state colleges and community colleges set up tributaries for students to assure all students could get an education, SSU has now all but closed them (  Sonoma State University simply fails to meet the needs of the community it is anchored in, dumping and leaving local students by the side of the educational road.


The local paper, the Press Democrat, confirmed all of this, reporting back in January of this year that delayed transfers at Santa Rosa Junior College are preventing students from transferring to universities (  ‘Delayed transfers’ mean that a limited number of classes would be available for students to graduate at the local junior college, which would then ‘delay their transfer’ to state colleges and universities.  Because required classes are vastly limited, students now take three years to complete a two-year degree and five years to complete a four-year degree.  But arguably, even if there were a plethora of classes, Armiñana has guaranteed that it is much harder to transfer from the local junior college due to policies that favor freshman.  This is all good news for the financial institutions that sell student loans.


Greg Sheldon, a long time student counselor who works with science students at the local junior college (where the need for classes is the greatest), pinned the blame partially on the CSU system.  He said the problem of lack of classes at Santa Rosa Junior College is compounded because the California State University and University of California systems have dramatically curtailed spring transfers (ibid).


Sheldon’s certainly right.  But again, this is only a partial portrait of the problem and obscures a large ingredient of the story, the part Armiñana wants to cover up or at least keep ambiguous.  With SSU favoring the admission of freshman for financial reasons (debt), transfer students from all community colleges throughout the nation have been locked out of SSU.  Many of the classes once offered at Sonoma State University have been cancelled or are over-subscribed.  This means that more and more students compete at both Santa Rosa Junior College and at Sonoma State University for an education.  Add to this the class and racial bias in admissions at SSU and we can see that the ‘State of California’ is being used as a convenient whipping boy to allow Armiñana to escape culpability.


Classism, racism, white privilege and the New Jim Crowe all collaborate to prevent students from being admitted into SSU


The situation with capital construction and debt at SSU has been even more insidious for what it has meant for racial diversity of the campus.  Students of color and working students by and large cannot get into SSU, not only as a result of financial concerns favoring freshman students, but also as a result of campus admission policies that favor a white, affluent student body.   SSU President Armiñana has managed to accomplish what no other CSU campus has been able to do: he has managed to segregate SSU by race and class.  SSU’s student body is now the richest and whitest of any state university in the 23 strong CSU system.


Peter Phillips of Project Censored and a professor at Sonoma State University wrote about the segregation, both by race and class, at the college back in 2009:


“An example of white privilege is how Sonoma State University (SSU) has recently achieved the status of having the whitest and likely richest student population of any public university in the California. Research shows, that beginning in the early 1990s, the SSU administration specifically sought to market the campus as a public ivy institution—offering an Ivy-League experience at a state college price. Part of this public ivy packaging was to advertise SSU as being in a destination wine country location with high physical and cultural amenities. These marketing efforts were principally designed to attract upper-income students to a Falcon Crest-like campus.


To achieve the desired outcome of becoming a wine-country public Ivy-league school, SSU’s administration implemented special admissions screening processes that used higher SAT-GPA indexes than the rest of the California State University (CSU) system. According to Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres in The Miner’s Canary, high SAT scores correlate directly to both race and income with little relationship to actual success in college.


SSU also conducted recruitment at predominately white upper-income public and private high schools throughout the west coast and Hawaii. Consequently, SSU freshmen students with family incomes over $150,000 have increased by 59 percent since 1994 and freshmen students from families with incomes below $50,000 declined by 21 percent (2007 dollars). The campus remained over three-quarters white during this fifteen-year period, while the rest of the CSU campuses significantly increased ethnic diversity”


Building a Public Ivy,


Campus Discovery reported that 67% of all students are considered Caucasian at SSU, 2% are African American, 1% are Native American, 11% are Latino, 5% are Asian and 14% declare something ‘other’ (


Walking through the campus today one hardly sees America reflected in the racial or class composition.  Armiñana’s policies have reduced diversity at the campus at a time when it is racial diversity that is needed in our divided nation.  Not surprisingly, racism reared its head in 2008 at the mostly white campus (


Clearly, the debt connection and the need to have full-dormitories, and students paying for food services and parking, has favored the admission of more white, affluent, freshman students.  Add to this over-enrollment at the college of an inordinate amount of freshman coupled with an inability to offer a wide breadth of classes and we see that SSU simply cannot meet the needs of a diverse population of students.




Students cannot get out of SSU: debt and the reliance on freshman means fewer upper division classes, faculty and classrooms in which to teach

Sonoma State University graduation rates are abysmal and especially when it comes to people of color.  Only 55% of all students graduate within four years, 50% graduate within five years and 25% graduate within six years.  Tracking students of color, we find that SSU graduation rates are much worse for this segment of the population.  Less than 50% of African Americans and less than 50% of Latinos graduate within four years.  Overall four year graduation rates for Caucasians hover around 30% and for Asians the rate is less than that of African Americans.  Fifty percent of Native Americans graduate within four years (

As the Chronicle authors were quick to note in their March 19, 2012 communiqué, Armiñana is over-enrolling freshman students and plucking the commodified freshman from the pie to pay and service debt.  Merit has nothing to do with admission at SSU, for as Chronicle writers indicate:

“No wonder, there were fewer classes to go around in the spring than in the fall last year. Over enrollment fills dorms and provides revenue that helps SSU’s Administration make debt payments; over enrollment hurts the Academic side that does not receive adequate income from the State to provide classes. It also hurts students by limiting their access to classes and extending graduation paths. Who decides which of the 1200 students in the headcount above the FTES cap do not get to take the full load many expected when they paid their fees?


The CSU can assess fines to campuses that exceed their enrollment targets. SSU was 4.5% over target for fall 2011, which could have resulted in a hefty fine. To avoid the fine, SSU limited the number of units students could enroll in for spring 2012 (PBAC minutes, 12-8-11). SSU imposed an enrollment cap and controlled registration by restricting units to nine during first pass and ramping up to 18 units by the add/drop period (all campus email, 2-13-12).


SSU students of all colors and stripes are faced with a daunting dilemma.   Seventy-five percent either graduate in five or more years while they wait for phantom classes that may never appear, or worse, they are forced to purchase the classes they need from predatory for-profit colleges and universities.  This is partially owed to Armiñana’s reliance on a numerically strong freshman class to pay capital construction debt.




Armiñana has helped create the material conditions for the decimation of the public commons and the takeover by force of the private ownership of the educational means of production


It is the contention of this part of the series that poor stewardship over the public commons by ‘CEO’ Armiñana has helped, in conjunction with the failure of the political forces in Sacramento, ineffective ‘business union leaders’ and admittedly years of public budget tightening and neglect, to create the material conditions for the rise of for-profit colleges and universities which threaten public institutions of higher learning by forcefully muscling into the community college ‘market’.  Like private pike in a public lake these for-profit colleges have always lobbied to weaken the public sector.  They are now literally sitting back on their laurels reaping the benefits of a public crisis they and their crony politicians helped to create.


Armiñana, it will be argued here, through his reckless and feckless actions, acted as the ‘wheelman’ for privatization efforts, steering the college into an economic abyss and helping to undermine not just SSU, but public education and thus the public commons in general.  By transforming the public sector into a vestige of privatization and through turning SSU into a mini-investment bank for his pet construction projects, CEO Armiñana betrayed the educational mission of the college and the trust of students, faculty, staff and the community.

The crisis facing higher public education and indeed all education is financialization, corporatization and privatization

The socio-political crisis facing public education at all levels is arguably the worst it has been in modern history.  It is a time when bold leadership and massive organizing by the working class, students, faculty and citizens is needed to staunch decades of public institutional bloodletting and prohibit the forces of reaction from privatizing, fianancializing and commodifying all education.  Unfortunately, at SSU bold leadership has been abandoned by a state university president prolifically hunched over architectural blueprints for more and more debt-driven construction projects.  It seems that SSU president, Ruben Armiñana, fiddles while Rome burns.

Armiñana serves as public pall-bearer

By failing to perform competent and responsible stewardship of Sonoma State University as a public institution, it is contended that Ruben Armiñana has contributed to students’ inability to attend or graduate from SSU and in so doing, has inflicted a severe gash to not simply SSU, but on the body politics of public education.  Corporatizing and privatizing the university in the interest of self-aggrandizement, neo-liberal public policies, financialization, and veritable delusion; pouring every last penny possible into capital construction projects fueled by debt; tendering questionable multi-million dollar endowment loans to scandalous and dubious land developers; acting like the CEO of a mini-investment bank, chasing down high risk yields in the equity market and passing the begging bowl to the one percent for pet projects like the Green Music Center have all orchestrated themselves in ‘concert’ to destroy the educational public commons at SSU.

The austerity attacks and dismantling efforts aimed at the public commons is having its desired effect: as to higher education it is providing for the takeover of the educational market and pushing working class students into indebtedness by selling them needed classes they cannot get at public institutions such as SSU.

So you want to be a nurse?

To best concretize what has happened at SSU and at other public institutions, think of yourself as a young aspiring student living at home and wishing to become a nurse.   You apply to your local community college, in this case, Santa Rosa Jr. College, down the street from Sonoma State University, only to find that the junior college classes you need are oversubscribed, upper division classes are difficult, if not impossible, to get into, and what you thought would be a two year stint that might launch you into a state college or even a UC, is now going to be a three or four year stretch due to a lack of classes and waiting lists.

Not to be chagrined, you decide to enroll at your community college anyway, just to get some of the generic sixty units you will need to transfer to a four year university.  After procuring most or all of the sixty units you need to transfer, you now plan to apply to Sonoma State University to finish any upper degree classes necessary to get your B.S. in Nursing and finally begin work to start paying off some of your student debt.

You apply, but find out that SSU is not admitting any new students.  There is an admission freeze in place well into the future.  Santa Rosa Junior College does not offer the upper division classes you need, so you are forced to look elsewhere.  Your panicked investigation reveals that the public education you need to complete your nursing program is not only unavailable, but you now discover that education is no longer even a human right as you were led to believe.  It is, in fact, just another commodity or product for sale, like detergent or toothpaste.

So, here you are as a nursing student looking for a future that is not foreclosed to you and you cannot get an education.  Frustrated, you seek an alternative to the dirge of available classes at SSU and elsewhere. You spot an advertisement in a campus newspaper, a glamorized and glitzy commercial on TV, or at a campus ‘News Stand’ a colorized flyer hocking a for-profit college that promises that you not only can get $50,000 in student loans to enroll in their nursing program, but the classes you want are available right now, or next week at latest, and you can finish them in much less time than at any public institution.

Welcome to for-profit college: Everest College

Located in Southern, California, Everest College is just one for-profit college that preys on stranded students searching for credited classes.  (To be fair, there are many such parasitic colleges and universities and they trade on the New York and NASDAQ stock exchanges (

While the program at for-profit Everest costs nearly $60,000 in tuition and the college degree is Fools Gold in most job markets, for the most part students don’t know this (ibid).  Nor are students aware of the fact that just last year more than 90 percent of the nursing students at community colleges located nearby Everest College, passed state licensing exams required to become credentialed and practice nursing in California.  Meanwhile, fewer than 70 percent of Everest students passed these exams, registering the lowest success rate of all nursing programs in the state.  Of course the sock-puppet corporate press that receives lucrative ad money from the for-profit predatory colleges like Everest will not disclose any of this to the public.

As far as having to take out exorbitant loans to pay sub-prime colleges like Everest the ridiculous prices they charge for classes, on the surface, might seem more practical than waiting semester after semester to get into a public college or university.  This is true even if the cost of the for-profit college is as much as 20 times the amount one would pay at a community college or state university, which it is at Everest.  You have to do what you have to do, right?  This is the logic of false dichotomy that now faces students struggling to get an education by any means necessary.

The tragedy of the commons: The illegal election that approved a $130,000,000 SSU Student Center at a time when college funds hemorrhage is indicative of despotic rule, the law of modern enclosure and plunder


The Student Center, for years a source of controversy, is too long to report in detail here.  However, it is relevant to Armiñana’s almost maniacal decisions to continue to build in face of lack of funds.


The following is a brief chronology of the events that culminated in the illegal approval of a $130,000,000 Student Center during a time of fiscal crisis and forced austerity:


§      In mid January 2011, the CSU issues a new Executive Order on student fees (#1054) and raises SSU mandatory fees by $300—an increase for SSU students totaling $800 or nearly 12% from the previous year.


§      In a flyer entitled, “Top Ten Reasons to Vote No on the Student Center”, contained in Chronicle XVIII: State of the University, February 10, 2011 gives reasons why opposition to the $65 million dollar Student Center (the project is estimated to cost $130,000,000 million with debt service) is essential.  The opposition comes hard and fast from both students, faculty and even activist members of the surrounding community — to no avail.


§      The controversy over the Student Center boil over into an illegal election in early April when the administration of Sonoma State University work ruthlessly to control a student vote authorizing the center under new rule #1054.  Students were eventually said to have voted 58% in favor of the new Student Center, while two thirds of students didn’t even bother to vote.


§      On May 19, 2011, the SSU Academic Senate pass a Resolution requesting a third party investigation of the Student Center Referendum election but foot dragging and a commitment to sweeping the whole thing under the rug dominate the agenda.


§      In August 2011, a group of civil rights attorneys, in a letter to CSU Chancellor Reed and President Armiñana, question the election for legal and procedural improprieties. The attorneys allege serious voting irregularities which violate SSU students’ due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Neither Armiñana, nor anyone in the SSU Administration, comment on the allegations of an illegal election other than to state that they would go forward with the groundbreaking ceremony after the CSU Board of Trustees approved the project in late September of 2011.


§      Chronicle authors reveal that on November 16, 2011, the same day that the CSU trustees voted to raise student tuition by $498 in a closed-door session, they approve the Student Center project based on President Armiñana’s personal request


The consequence of the entire Student Center fiasco, combined with decades of unimaginable and perpetual construction, is that SSU has exceeded its credit limit with the CSU system and the State of California.  With the president able to dip into and use General Funds for debt service on the monumental capital construction projects at SSU, this budgetary practice translates into less money for classes, instruction, student services, students and faculty.  Of course Armiñana says that the Student Center and the Green Music Center will be self-generating ‘enterprises’.  But this is hardly possible given the size of the debt and the enrollment caps due to state budget crisis.  Add to this the despicable state of the economy and less and less money is available for conspicuous consumption.


Armiñana and his administrative cohorts knew all of this when they authorized the Student Center.  They had a perfect excuse for pulling out of the project when the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 descended.  They also had an ‘out’ when opposition to the Student Center reared its head in late 2011 over the illegal student election.  Yet Armiñana refused to take the opportunity to rethink his decision in light of the economic state of the union and the opposition. He forged ahead anyway.


One can only wonder why; whether this was simply a case of callous disregard for the economic facts coupled with hubris, or if there is some other more sinister financial reason the community is unaware of.  Either way, the decision to build a $130,000,000 Student Center at a public state university in the middle of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 when it is obvious that state budget cuts will impact SSU’s ability to operate a public institution is madness.


As authors of the Chronicle sagaciously stated in 2011, before the Student Center was officially authorized and out of the legal woods:


“A loan for $128,000,000 is incomprehensible.  Yet students who are deemed by society to be too young to purchase a can of beer are being asked to approve a building that will still be being paid for when they are facing retirement and grandparenthood” (Chronicle XIV, Student Center update, October 17, 2011).


The authors could have added the mere fact that the cost of student loans, or $36 billion in current outstanding, unpaid student loans, is owed by Americans 60 years and older with 10% of the debt past due (The Press Democrat, Retirees burdened by student loans, April 2, 2012).

The fact that Armiñana would muscle through a $130,000,000 Student Center using an illegal or at best questionable student election is not only unconscionable, it is perhaps testimony to a much larger psychological problem of delusional thinking.  Either way, comparisons to Easter Island aside (it cannot be stated loud enough that one and one half million square feet of construction has been built for a public campus with a student body of 8,500) both president Armiñana and the CSU system has remarkably put SSU deeply into debt.

California’s Neo-liberal Master plan for privatized higher Education scrapped in favor of financialization and privatization

The 1960 master plan for public higher education in California provided for full, no cost, universal access to higher education for all qualified students.  The plan is crumbling now, owed to decades of right-wing assaults on public education and public unions under the canopy of neo-liberalism; the drafting of policies that favor the underfunding of public education and the failure of effective leadership and theoretical imagination at all levels, from unions to politicians.  Inarguably, the lack of public funding for public institutions is among the most devastating economic and social forces creating new material conditions for privatization and driving the deluge in enrollment at the corporate, for-profit disaster colleges (

The 1960 public California Master plan for higher education is an anathema to the for-profit educational industry; it always has been.  The Master plan gave rise to one of the most prestigious public state university and UC systems in the nation, eventually emulated by myriad states and making up the bulk of school systems throughout the nation. For-profit colleges and universities, just like their counterparts, for-profit health care companies, hate what they call “the public option” or public education and public provided services.   Removing public education not only opens up the market to financialization, it opens up the market to monopolization as competition is removed and neo-liberalism and financialization add the finishing nails to the privatization of education.

It is important to keep in mind that under the original California Master plan, the state subsidized every resident who came through the system and wanted an education.  The subsidy for universal public education eliminated out-of-pocket costs for students, save for a few affordable fees for specialized coursework such as labs.  This has changed now and is why the recklessness of Ruben Armiñana’s regime is unconscionable.

Just to pay for a public bachelor’s degree nationwide in 2009, at any public institution of higher learning (leaving aside for a moment the dire situation at SSU), the cost of tuition not only went through the roof, but during the same time the amount of public subsidies available to students plummeted.  This meant more out of costs for education in face of shrinking government assistance — all good news for enrollment increases for the for-profit colleges and universities, which grew by a whopping 235%, just from 2000 to 2010 (ibid).

Perhaps more importantly, the growth of the sub-prime colleges and universities is coming on the heels of an opportune economic and political headwind driven by the failure of capitalism without the gloves.   As economic austerity becomes the mantra translated into public policies of slashed budgets by reactionary and even liberal politicians, what better opportunity for the for-profit colleges and universities to set the new public policy agenda for higher education — a Privatized National Master Plan for the New Millennium.

All of this is tremendous news for the for-profit colleges that many thought would simply go away after the Department of Education assiduously labored to regulate them.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Economic hardship from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 actually increased the industry’s market share as public institutions barreled fiscally downward.

Kathryn Ryder, a contributor to CNN, reported in early April 2012:

“At a recent conference at the marbled University Club in New York City, the caveat-filled headline said it all: “Private Equity Investing In For-Profit Education Companies:  Despite grumbling from activists & politicians, the industry is getting good results” (

Given years of attacks on public education and chipping away at the public commons has meant damaging and disfiguring public education with virulence.

We see the same attacks on K-12 education as privatization threatens to gobble up these systems as well.  All of these decade long attacks on public education (arguably attacks throughout the entire 20th century), against students, workers and unionized faculty are now paying off big time as a result of the economic blowback from years of neglect.  Cash strapped states wield the budget cutting knife going after education and unionized teachers first; they always have.

In what can only be termed weakness, indifference, inability to critically think about social issues, complacency, a lust for power and just the downright failure business trade unionism and liberalism, teacher unions are not only less effective than they were historically, but the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) are often actually collaborators in the destruction of education. The teacher’s union leadership is an embarrassment, coddling billionaires such as Bill Gates and basically failing to wage strategic and well thought out battles to protect public education.  By concentrating solely on salary packages and fighting reactionary politics aimed at undermining public education with a tepid fleshy liberalism, the unions and their political representatives have helped create the material conditions for the private takeover of education through ineffective strategies and tactics.

Due to lack of public education frustrated students flock to for-profit predatory colleges

Bottom of F”Every day I sit in my math classroom, there’s something on the wall either telling me to join the Marines or go to the University of Phoenix,” said Joey Reynoso, student vice president at Riverside City College, one of the 112 junior or what were once called “community colleges” ((

Navigating the world of higher education under the neo-liberal regime has become nearly impossible for students and especially low-income working students.  State colleges and community colleges, stalwart public educational institutions that for decades have provided affordable conduits to student careers and an educated citizenry have been decimated by budget cuts, social policies designed to minimize education and overloaded by skyrocketing demand.  State and local support for community colleges on a per-student basis declined by 8 percent in 2009, down significantly from a decade earlier, according to Department of Education statistics compiled by the Delta Project, a nonprofit research group that studies higher education spending (

Community colleges, like Santa Rosa Junior College, are essential for career training, but they also provide a logical course for transfer students to the California State University system. Statistics reveal that more than half of all CSU graduates started at community colleges.  For the UC system, it is nearly a third (ibid).

Presiding over crisis and sensing the collapse of the public sector, for-profit colleges have been more than usually aggressive, placing marketing notices on bulletin boards at community colleges, taking out full-page ads in student newspapers and offering SAT and ACT tests at campuses like SSU, where students are unable to enroll in classes.  In this way, the for-profit colleges place their proverbial ‘privatized nose under the public tent’ which gives them marketing exposure and social legitimacy (

In the eyes of those who support the growth and expansion of public education, sub-prime, for-profit colleges are the inevitable, outgrowth of a hustler society, one that simultaneously rewards those with ‘degrees and diplomas’, while eliminating support for public institutions and more importantly for public education.

Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a state of California higher education advocacy group put it this way:

“The reality is that there is huge demand, and we’ve not supported our public colleges and universities to meet this growth in demand. Students are in dire need of making sure that colleges can offer courses at a time that’s feasible for them, and colleges that give them a very clear prescription for particular career pathway. Many of these for-profit colleges and universities advertise just that (ibid).

In testimony on Capitol Hill and in media interviews, the for-profit disaster colleges and universities have emphasized that its schools welcome the least advantaged, hardest-to-educate students: people from low-income households, minorities, veterans and first-generation college students.  They actually say they are providing needy students a favor.  While for-profit colleges do indeed educate more low-income and minority students than other institutions, this is due to the decimation of the public commons and specifically, opportunities for enrollment and completion at state colleges and universities.

So just who will attend the nation’s public institutions of higher education and pay down the massive debt? Selling seats to out of state students pay debt at SSU

There is something even more insidious about the failed policies and sickening stewardship of SSU by Ruben Armiñana, laced as they are to the dismal economic situation facing the CSU system at whole.  Not only can American students not get into SSU, the CSU system, community colleges and public universities, but to make up for the shortfall in short term thinking, the trend we see now is the sell-off of admission to the burgeoning Asian middle and upper classes.  These constituencies pay full out of state resident fees and they never ask for low-income waivers to avoid the cost of paying fees that perpetually escalate.  Happy to have the imprimatur of say, Sonoma State University on their resume, eager to live in beautiful California climate sipping locally made wine with less than one hour drive from San Francisco, the opportunity is breathtaking.

Sonoma State University currently accepts 4% of students from other countries.  This can be expected to rise dramatically as the school house doors close permanently on unemployed, debt ridden, housing-challenged and health care bereft American students.  Simply said:  American students are a bad investment from universities.  They cannot pay out of state tuition and they can’t pay back the money they borrow for an overpriced college and university education.

The highly paid public administrators are conducting fire auctions to sell seats so they can keep their coveted positions and perks.  They also see tremendous profits to be made at what are called public universities.

Out of state students pay many times more than in state residents.  At SSU tuition for non-resident students, in addition to the cost of sundry registration fees which totals thousands of dollars, is $372 per unit (   With freshman seats for sale, tuition rising, debt service as the priority of the school and American students saddled with student debt well into their senior years, selling seats like hot cakes to out of state students is where the money is.  You can be sure that not only does debt drive the curriculum; it drives student admissions and especially the admission of deep-pocketed out of state students.

A list provided by College Express, online, is truly remarkable and really says all that needs to be stated about the dire state of public higher education in the United States.  The percentage of out-of-state students attending public community colleges, state universities and even high end private colleges like the University of California or Harvard has exploded now that local students can’t afford the escalating tuition at colleges and universities in America (, Wintergreen Orchard House). * You can see a list of colleges and the percentage of out of state students paying out of state tuition at the end of this article

Will SSU sell seats to the international community and the burgeoning Asian middle class as well?

A recent article in the 2012 January edition of Business Week reported that the University of California system is enrolling record numbers of out-of-state and international students, who pay almost twice that of in-state residents.   Why?  Cuts in the state budget, mal-stewardship of the public commons and of course ever growing debt.

Business Week also went on to note that among those being squeezed out are high-achieving Asian-Americans, many of them children of immigrants (  These are students who for decades flocked to the state’s elite public colleges to move up the economic ladder in the land of ‘social mobility’. Now they find the social mobility, like most working Americans and the poor, is hurdling steadily downward.

Hollowing out America by asset stripping the public commons and selling it off to those who can buy it is now the end game for America. Our grandparents and parents built these public commons over one hundred years ago and now the asset stripping is showing up at our institutions of higher education where seats are sold for the highest buck.  It seems that everything is now being outsourced, everything is now being privatized and everything is now sold for profit.

The game plan is not even secret anymore now that massive numbers of jobs have been privatized or shipped overseas or both.  Business Week also reported that in 2009, University of California administrators told the San Diego campus admissions director, Mae Brown, to reduce its number of in-state freshmen by 500 to about 3,400 and fill the spots with out-of-state and international students, said. California residents pay $13,234 in annual tuition while nonresidents pay $22,878.  So why not use publicly paid university personnel to set up a toll booth for students that favor the most affluent?

The international Chinese community got the message and those affluent enough, almost 200 freshmen from China enrolled in public institutions of higher learning in 2011, up from 16 in 2009; that’s a 12-fold increase (ibid).  These are precisely the freshman Armiñana is looking for.  He can claim diversity in enrollment, an international presence in a rapidly changing global world, expand the local business community opportunities as affluent Asians have more to spend than credit card carrying students with little future.  More importantly, by selling seats at SSU to the burgeoning Asian upper classes as well as rich subsidized Saudis and other international affluent students, Armiñana can pay the ‘vig’ on the debt bonds.

If non-resident fees provide an impetus for admission at SSU then the revenue gained by admitting international students could be part of the debt service plan as well.  It makes sense.  For international students wanting to go to SSU, the cost is 33,379.00 for one year or 24 units, including fees and tuition (  Clearly from a business perspective and this is the perspective that Armiñana seems to cares most about, recruiting non-resident freshman and international students is where the money is.

In 2009 CBS News reported that:

The number of international students attending colleges in the United States climbed for the third straight year, according to the Institute of International Education. Roughly 671,600 international students attended colleges and universities here during the 2008-2009 school year. First-year enrollment jumped almost 16%.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the United States continues to be the top destination for international college students. It remains the alpha dog despite efforts by Australia, Canada and other countries to attract more international students. Great Britain is the second most popular college destination for foreign students with close to 341,800 studying there (

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that in 2010:


The number of Chinese students attending U.S. colleges rose by more than 23 percent in the 2010 academic year”

Meanwhile, Saudi students, while coming in much smaller numbers, benefited from generous government scholarships, expanding their presence by 44 percent.  In all, the numbers of foreign students in the U.S. grew by nearly 5 percent, compared with 3 percent a year earlier (


China is the leader in sending students to study abroad at American universities is and colleges.  According to the Huffington Post of May 10, 2012:

“China sent nearly 160,000 students to U.S. universities last year, more than four times the number 15 years ago and more than any other country, according to the U.S.-based Institute of International Education. Chinese students account for nearly 22 percent of international students, who contribute more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy through tuition and living expenses (

Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education stated it best:

“There is a whole new wave of middle-class parents in China who want the best education they can get for their child. And they can pay for it”   And pay they do at schools like University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has 7,223 foreign students enrolled as undergraduates and graduate students in the current school year. In the 2009-2010 school year, China surpassed South Korea as the biggest exporter to the state’s flagship university (——-exports–students.html).

The sad thing is that due to the theft of working class wealth, American students cannot pay for education.  Much like banks that won’t lend to American consumers for they have no savings, are in debt or have no money, more state colleges and universalities are looking to shuck American students in favor of foreign students, and especially the growing Asian middle class, to subsidize their decades of privatization, corporatization, financialization, debt, profligate spending (Ruben Armiñana), and high administrative salaries.

What many Americans do not know, due to the deplorable state of what is called “news” in this country, is that in corporate America where profits always come before people, everything is for sale and this means everything from bridges and roads to American higher education.

Obama travels to India in 2010 with a gaggle of University Presidents: The vast new international market for America’s public universities

Perhaps the lights should have gone on back in 2010 when President Barrack Obama made his trip to India.  Reported in the corporate press as an economic trip designed to support India the corporate press, as usual, concealed more than it revealed.  Obama was there to sell the rancid Race to the Top to the India ruling class ( (   But he was also there on behalf of cash strapped colleges and universities.

As I wrote back in 2010 in an article for Daily Censored and which I will reproduce in part here, for the Indian story is no different than that of the Chinese who are flocking to American public universities in search of an education and diplomas:

“Want to Sit on the Same Bench with America? The US needs to tap into the Indian education market to bail out its broke colleges, November 8, 2010, Tehelka, Anil Sadgopal,

All over the world the move towards privatization of education discloses its ugly colors and roams the earth like locusts.  Americans must understand that the privatization of education is not simply a national phenomenon, but a global one.

In a little-noticed but important part of U.S. President Barrack Obama’s India visit, a delegation of U.S. education officials is trying to push India to speed up its acceptance of foreign universities. This requires an Indian government initiative that has been promised but appears at the moment to be stalled.  That is why the delegation is accompanying the Commander in Chief of Privatization, President Barrack Obama.

At issue, are India’s current regulations that govern education such as regulations on education that legislate aspects such as tuition fees, teacher salaries and curriculum.  All this, of course, is a punch in the face to colleges and universities in the US that favor ‘market fundamentalism’, meaning no regulations at all.  This certainly is true for the for-profit predatory colleges and universities that see the global landscape as a training ground for ‘human capital’ – and for hefty profits for Wall Street and CEO’s.

American universities have made clear to Mr. Sibal, the minister of human resource development in India that they can’t operate in India under such government regulations and Mr. Sibal has repeatedly said he hopes not only to allow foreign universities to operate in India without the burden of such regulations but to liberate the entire higher education system from these outdated rules.  What this means is full spectrum privatization.  Of course whether Sibal will be able to do so remains in question, in part because many Indians fear what most Americans have suffered – tuition fees, unregulated, that would soar out of the reach of the average Indian, in the absence of substantial student loan programs.  India is now in the process of setting up student loan programs and vocational programs that would run on debt, much like the US.

The sad truth of the matter is that US state universities and colleges are broke and the spiraling tuition fees unsustainable for US students.  Making a buck off of India would allow some of these colleges and universities to shore up their own debt and bail out their own broken institutions.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The group of about a dozen U.S. officials, including representatives from Duke University, Rutgers University and Arizona State University, will make its case Tuesday to senior officials from India’s Human Resource Development ministry, which covers higher education.

The ruling Indian National Congress party introduced a bill in March that would allow foreign universities to set up stand-alone undergraduate and graduate-degree programs here. Foreign institutions are now allowed to set up only programs in India that are part of degree programs based elsewhere (Geeta Anand U.S. Officials to Press India on Education The Wall Street Journal,

The issue is now outsourcing American university seats to the rising middle classes in third world countries, especially as their cost of education for students in this country is rising sharply with year to year tuition increases assuring that US students will have no chance to go to any major university without the help of the Banksters on Wall Street ready to loan them the money to mortgage their futures for an Empire literally sitting on the precipice of collapse.  Skyrocketing tuition means more need for capital and this is where the foreign educational market comes in.

Add to this the fact that the US universities themselves are broke, teetering on a sea of capital construction loans and other for-profit ventures such as Wall Street derivatives and debt that could leave them bankrupt.  Yet India, with more than half of its 1.1 billion people under the age of 30, represents a vast new market for U.S. universities.  Duke University, for example, aims to set up a campus in India, starting with a business degree program. However to get their hands on students in India  requires passage of the foreign universities bill, according to Jaivir Singh, an adviser to Duke in Delhi who is part of the delegation (ibid).  And it is this hustle that is allowing Obama to bring with him the insidious ‘captains of training’ that have financially ruined US higher education.

Kapil Sibal, minister of human resource development for India stated that he wanted to encourage foreign universities to establish undergraduate and graduate degree programs in India as part of a broader plan to substantially increase the quality and quantity of higher education programs in India.  Sibal noted that India can’t meet the demand of its growing economy for better educated workers unless its higher education system is substantially expanded and improved.

This of course is where the educational industry in the United States comes in and where the need to de-regulate India’s educational rules are a necessity for their involvement.  Public universities are eager to grant admission to foreign students for the high tuition and fees and they are equally interested in operating like a corporation, opening up educational retail franchises in India, Asia and DuBai.  And don’t think this will be limited to state universities; look for the for-profit predator colleges like Kaplan, Capella, DeVry and the University of Phoenix to be wetting their lips to snake further into the ‘global educational market’” (

As the public and private for-profit predatory colleges look to expand market share (Kaplan reported an increase in its international division of for-profit universities and other educational products), America is now facing a permanent state of surplus labor — disposable youth who may never work; youth who may never own a home or even rent one; youth who will forever remain in debt in a capitalist economic system and commercial culture that simply cannot give them health care, education welfare or a civic life.   With work sent overseas for 70 cents an hour labor, America simply cannot compete — except on a trajectory downward.

There are many more educational articles to reference regarding selling seats in American public state universities to out of state or international students and I have listed some of them in the reference section for readers.  These articles supply the evidence needed to see that the financialized business plans of the once public institutions of higher education that now operate like corporations or better yet, mini-investment banks putting profit before people, are or have been corporatized, privatized and financialized. 

It seems clear that unless there are radical changes to American economic and social life that put people before profit, the future for American students not members of the lucky sperm club will resemble a semi-feudal life of debt peonage, permanent war, a life of no work or low paid work, no health care or corporatized health care, no education or privatized education, and virtually no public commons as America privatizes more and more public services, much as Britain did some decades ago when they outsourced them to other countries like Dubai. 

Clearly capitalist global economics is not serving the needs of the 99%.  Youth, all over the world, from Quebec to Chile, from the US to England, from Spain to France and beyond all see that under the new regime of post mortem capitalism there is no future, no education — only debt and austerity.


A shortage of rational, long term thinking coupled with hubris and delusion have all clamored together with the failure of capitalism to orchestrate the current crisis at Sonoma State University.  Sadly, the university is becoming less and less accessible to our nation’s young students.  As a public university it is failing our young people and the workers who labor within its walls.  With dormitory occupancy and full-paid meal tickets determining who is admitted into the college, fewer numbers of working class students, students of color and local transfer students can attend the debt-ridden university.  With a plethora of lower division classes being offered to secure the needed freshman classes, a scarcity of upper division classes means that fewer students can complete their degree and studies within a four year window.

The revenue that Armiñana is counting on from the dormitories and various meal ticket sales may not be forthcoming (unless he sells seats to international and out of state students); just as the one trillion dollars in student loan debt can never be paid back.  The revenues pledged for student loan debt is the students’ future employment or earning capacity.  The revenues Armiñana has pledged for debt are students’ financial lives.

Armiñana has also created an over-enrollment trap for the school that means that it will not be possible to admit large numbers of freshman each year and remain under the enrollment cap if existing students are not able to complete their studies and graduate.  Even if the campus could increase enrollment to ten thousand, which it cannot, it has no classrooms to educate students and there is no money to build any, Armiñana having squandered the funds on favored capital construction projects that serve  business and the millionaire ‘Green Music Center’ pack, as we will see in part four.

Armiñana could have served as a public steward for the university during a time of economic crisis, investing in educational facilities, faculty and student programs.  He chose not to, assuming capitalism actually provided needed services for people and preferring to use public money to gamble like mini-investment bank, Goldman Sachs.  He chose construction over instruction.

Armiñana has created a situation whereby the only way to pay down debt at SSU is to cut student programs, decimate faculty and workers’ salaries, hire adjunct professors to replace tenured labor, pitch the college to the Asian middle and ruling classes, use the internet as a Distance Learning ruse, raise fees on such things as mental health for students and Student Centers and slash classes and academic programs.  This is the ‘austerity’ crisis that Armiñana has left as his legacy — one of his own making — a virtual pedagogy of plunder.

With America hollowed out by policies like NAFTA that assured the outsourcing of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, we were told that service jobs would be part of the ‘new economy’ that would replace industrial America.  Not so.  With service centers for everything from call centers to placing product orders sent overseas in a mad dash to keep wages down, avoid working condition disputes and completely do an end run around environmental and other regulations, America has now asset stripped its economy.  In doing so, the captains of capital have assured that our nation’s cities’ once reliant on a vibrant economy, are now circling the drain along with all the services they once provided.  And now they want to outsource our colleges and universities while our citizens are forced to accept a new Digital Dark Ages.

This virtually means that there is no productive capacity in the country and with the rich avoiding taxes and corporations hiding unreported income overseas, there simply is no money to fund or operate the public commons.  What great day to be a for-profit college or better yet, a CEO or major shareholder of one.  As the market for public education continues to deliquesce due to intentional domestic and international policies designed to benefit the rich and impoverish the poor, public education, as life itself, is now a commodity on the auction block.  The best education students can achieve now is through resistance to a capitalist system that has and will continue to fail them — it must be an organized resistance to a new neo-liberal Master plan for a post-modern system of serfdom that is administered by a Gulag carceral state where punishing and policing an exploited and disenfranchised population becomes the norm.





** A small collection of articles on accelerated international student admissions to US colleges and universities:,0,2732111.story