Classes May Get Corporate Sponsors | NBC New York

Classes May Get Corporate Sponsors

Community College gets "Entrepreneurial"



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    Graduating students, like these, may one day have their degree thanks to corporate sponsorship.

    Colleges struggling to get by may get some help from the private sector.

    While most schools have survived the economic crisis by laying off teachers, cutting services and eliminating classes, one community college in San Francisco is planning to enlist corporate sponsorship to fund classes, says Time Magazine.

    City College in San Francisco has implemented these cost cutting tactics and others in an attempt to survive the recession. Most of their funding comes from the state, currently riddled in a budget deficit exceeding $27 billion. The school's chancellor, Don Griffin, will have no choice but to cut 800 classes from their curriculum unless, as he proposes, they can sell the naming rights to those classes.

    Much like a pro sports franchise would sell the naming rights to their stadiums, the City College of San Francisco could be offering PricewaterhouseCooper's Financial Accounting 101 or Pfizers Introduction to Chemistry, for future semesters.  

    "We have to go after private money, but in a thoughtful way, that doesn't compromise our values, or let the private sector off the hook," said Milton Marks, the president of the College Board, who is expected to review the formal proposal later this month.

    Fred Chaviara, chair of the Justice and Fire Science Department, will lose four classed unless he hustles to find sponsors. He's planning to approach local firemen and police officers associations, who don't have deep pockets to begin with, to sponsor classes like Concepts of Law and Terrorism and Counter-terrorism, which are currently on the chopping block.

    "We're in a crisis," said Chaviara, who felt inclined to add, "I'm not going to take anything from a gun manufacturer."

    While there is concern about the plan, no one can argue with Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina who implemented the idea, to positive results.

    When Tony Zeiss took over as school president in the early '90's, he faced a budget gap. 

    "You either figure out how to generate alternative revenue streams or complain," remembers Zeiss. "We decided to become entrepreneurial."

    He sold the naming rights to laboratories, buildings and four of the school's six campuses, before he started listening to offers for individual classes. He soon found it was more profitable to sell sponsorships for entire academic programs.

    Now,  the Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina has the Christa A. Overcash Associate Degree Nursing Program. The program lives off the interest from the original $500,000 investment. Zeiss said sponsors are not involved in shaping the curriculum and says, "we have our own accrediting standards."

    The plan has, so far, been a success as joint ventures with other local companies have sprouted.

    To date, the Community College of San Fransisco has not generated significant interest from corporate sponsors.