While Cal State University raises tuition, over-60 students get in free

By: Lisa M Krieger/Mercury News

At a time when state budget cuts are increasing fees for young students at California State University, a little-known program allows senior citizens to enroll for free.

The “Over 60 Program” waives tuition for Californians 60 or older, regardless of income. Meanwhile, since its creation 30 years ago, annual tuition for younger students has climbed from $160 to $4,230. And last year, CSU cut back enrollment by thousands of students, while continuing to allow any interested elders to register for open classes.

It’s a small program — only 900 of 433,000 CSU students participated last year — but the education is worth an estimated $2 million to $3 million annually.

For students such as Timothy Fitzgerald, 64, it enables a lifelong path of education. While living on meager Social Security and disability benefits, he’s completing his fifth degree at San Jose State University and his third master’s.

“I see it as a benefit that the state can offer older citizens, helping us pursue a life of the mind,” said Fitzgerald, a conscientious student who has spent every recent afternoon at SJSU’s Martin Luther King Library preparing for a philosophy exam.

“I never would have had an opportunity to go to school unless there was support for tuition,” he said. “I do not want to sit on the sidelines.”

Another CSU student, 76-year-old Frances Gordon, made headlines in 2002 when she graduated summa cum laude from the San Marcos campus, arriving at graduation ceremonies on a red Honda motorcycle.

Space is scarce

The senior students don’t bump younger students; they register after regular students are enrolled and if there’s no space, they don’t get a seat.

But the entire system is under stress. Tuition has increased seven times in eight years. And CSU has taken other budget-cutting measures, such as reducing enrollment, implementing furloughs and cutting staff.

“Free education for folks over 60 is a nice thing for the public to support,” said Steve Boilard of the Legislative Analyst’s Office in Sacramento, who studies the state’s higher education spending patterns. “But the question isn’t ‘Is it good?’ but rather, ‘Is it the best way to spend our education dollars?’ ”

Further, Boilard noted, “Turning away recent high school graduates while providing slots to retirees isn’t the best way to allocate scarce enrollment slots.”

San Jose State parent Marie Ciano is 59, but said, “I do not believe it is fair for anyone to receive a waiver because of age.” Upon turning 60, she said she’d welcome paying a small fee. “I would like to attend some classes for the joy of the knowledge without placing a burden on the resources of the university.”

There are some tuition breaks offered to a few other groups of students, as well. For instance, children of dead or disabled veterans get a free education, regardless of family income. So do children of dead or injured firefighters, police officers or victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack — but they must prove financial need.

The Over 60 Program was established by CSU trustees in 1979, when California’s economy was strong and the state supported 90 percent of the cost of a CSU education — and the total cost of tuition was merely $160.

Faculty say they cherish the program and its older students.

“Such a program fits squarely with CSU’s mission and therefore should be celebrated, along with all other drives for equity and access in education,” said English professor Stefan Frazier.

“I was delighted to have them in my classes, said professor John Engell, chairman of the Department of English and Comparative Literature. “These older students exemplify the idea of education as a lifelong endeavor, and they bring to class a wealth of experiences and wisdom. They therefore serve as role models for younger students.”

“However, I wonder if SJSU might find a positive way to urge these over-60 students to become active financial contributors to the university during our current budget crisis,” Engell said.

Positive step

Some students also believe the program is a positive step.

“I fully support the Over 60 Program,” said Eric Acedo, a San Jose State junior majoring in environmental studies.

“Although relentless fee increases make staying in college more and more unattainable for regular students, that does not justify creating more difficulty in pursuing further education by revoking the benefits of the Over 60 Program. The less economic barriers there are to battling ignorance, the better.”

Boilard, of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, suggested “means testing,” so that wealthy retirees would be expected to pay. Several parents suggested a way for older students to “audit” courses, rather than taking them for academic credit.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald is hitting the books. Fitzgerald has enrolled in the program since 2006, earning a 3.4 GPA in courses such as Political Sociology; Poverty, Power and Wealth; and a graduate seminar in financial inequality.

If he passes his exam, he’ll have graduate degrees in philosophy, history and sociology. He hopes it will help him publish his memoirs and a study of Later 20th Century Life in San Jose and the Far West.

“I am not likely to take more coursework from San Jose State,” he said, sadly. “What would they admit me to study, if they did?”

Beethoven Center at San Jose State celebrates 25th anniversary with exhibition

By: Richard Scheinin/Mercury News

The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month. The most ambitious Beethoven study center outside Bonn, Germany, where Beethoven was born, is celebrating its silver anniversary with a sold-out fundraising banquet and concert next weekend — and with a free exhibit titled “25 Treasures for 25 Years.”

I spoke with William Meredith, the center’s director going back to 1985, about the exhibit, which opens Saturday at the Martin Luther King Library. (That’s where you’ll find the center, on the fifth floor). It includes letters penned by the composer, first-edition musical scores, rare paintings and other images of Beethoven — as well as a famous lock of his hair. (A bestselling book, “Beethoven’s Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved,” by Russell Martin, tells its story.)

Beyond the exhibit, Meredith explained the uniqueness of the center, which grew out of a collection of Beethoven’s letters, scores and memorabilia donated to the university by the late Ira F. Brilliant. He was an Arizona real estate developer whose life, like those of millions of others, was transformed by Beethoven.

Q Bill, I’m going to let you brag on your anniversary. Outside of Bonn, Germany — home to the Beethoven-Haus center, the world’s biggest — is there any other Beethoven research center that rivals the one in San Jose?

There isn’t anything like it anywhere, actually. It’s very American, very open and accessible. When you walk in, you can actually sit down and play some of the instruments in the collection, very fine reproductions of instruments similar to those played by Beethoven and his contemporaries. So elementary school kids come in, and they get to try the harpsichord and the clavichord and the early piano. Well, this just blows them away, and they stay for hours.

We also have original, antique instruments from Beethoven’s time, including a Broadwood piano, made in London in 1823 — and similar to the instrument Beethoven owned in Vienna, the one on which he composed his late sonatas. Someone from the staff will demonstrate the Broadwood — and our other vintage instruments — for the school kids, or whoever’s visiting.

Q This doesn’t happen in Germany?

A No! In Bonn and in most music instrument museums, you can only look. It’s very frustrating to look at something that wants to be heard. Here at the center, everybody gets the docent-led tour. Everybody gets to hear the instruments. And the same is true of the books on the walls: They’re open for everybody to use. Let’s say a high school kid wants to do research on Beethoven’s deafness. He can come in and look at all the books we have on the subject, whereas in Germany, the kid could never even get into the Beethoven Archive at the Beethoven-Haus.

Q The Bonn center obviously is much older than yours.

A Yes, nearly a century older. It opened in 1889.

Q And it’s much bigger.

A Sure. But we’ve got some rare stuff, too, and we’re always adding more. We’re just now raising funds for a second lock of hair — one that Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler, his first biographer, actually cut while Beethoven was still alive.

But we already have cooler things than that. We have several of Beethoven’s letters, some of which we’ve never had on display until now. They’re in the new exhibit.

As is a newly discovered painting of Beethoven — a very old copy of a lost painting, one of the earliest portraits of Beethoven, a historical image. In fact, we’re showing numerous images of Beethoven, including a copperplate engraving by an artist named Blasius Hofel: Beethoven once said of this engraving, “Several people have discerned my soul clearly from it.”

And there’s another engraving of Beethoven’s doctor during the time when Beethoven was writing his Heiligenstadt Testament. (In his “testament,” the composer despaired over his illnesses and increasing deafness, wondering if he would be able to fulfill his destiny as an artist.) It’s a really beautiful, high-quality picture, so you actually get to see what this doctor — who foolishly sent the composer to the countryside “to rest his ears” — looked like.

Q Impressive.

A I think so. But coming back to your question, the Bonn center will always have more autographs than we do — more manuscripts and musical scores from the composer’s hand.

But maybe in 75 years we’ll have caught up in other ways. We’ve already created what some scholars have called the greatest research tool for studying Beethoven — the Beethoven Gateway, an ongoing bibliography and resource for almost everything written about Beethoven, about 20,000 items so far. We’ve just started to add scores: You can click on the score and print a copy of the first edition. And we’re adding digital images from our large collection of illustrations of Beethoven and his world. (Go to www.sjsu.edu/beethoven, and click on “Beethoven Online”.)

Q Are there other Beethoven centers and museums?

A Several little boutique museums exist. The Brunswick Castle outside of Budapest has a Beethoven room that’s a little museum. There’s also a little Beethoven room in the Erdödy estate outside of Vienna.

Q What else is unique about the center in San Jose?

A We publish the Beethoven Journal — again, there’s nothing like it, anywhere. At the Beethoven-Haus, they publish a journal that comes out once a year, but it’s made up of scholarly articles written for other scholars and not intended for the general public. Whereas the Beethoven Journal, which comes out two times a year, always includes two or three articles that are scholarly, but it also tries to aim at interested non-professional people.

For example, the new issue includes an article about the origins of the only Beethoven museum in Vienna, the Pasqualati-Haus Beethoven Museum. It describes how, in 1939, the Nazis decried the “abomination” of a Jewish family living in what was mistakenly thought to be Beethoven’s most important apartment in Vienna. The family was thrown out, eventually sent to Auschwitz, and the museum was founded as a “sacred place of devotion.”

And now the author of the article, Walther Brauneis, reveals the sordid history of the Nazis’ founding of the museum and shows that it was all a mistake. Beethoven actually lived next door to the apartment that is the museum. All year long, Beethoven lovers visit what they think is Beethoven’s apartment, without knowing the horror and error of its founding.

That’s an example of what we do. The Beethoven Center works to break down the walls of academia in terms of sharing information about Beethoven with the world at large. Rather than having the view that the information uncovered by scholars is intended only for scholars, we’ve taken the view that it’s for everyone. And given Beethoven’s impact on the world, the more we know, the better off we are. It helps everyone to understand what his music means and what it can teach us about what it means to be fully human.

Q You’re coordinating a series of scholarly books on Beethoven?

A It’s called the North American Beethoven Series, and it’s put out some incredibly important books. I didn’t write them! The center has co-sponsored the series with other institutions and — because San Jose State doesn’t have its own press — with other university presses.

It contains the first collection, in three volumes (from University of Nebraska Press), of the letters that were written to Beethoven, rather than by him. You can finally read the other half of the conversation. Ted Albrecht is the editor.

And then there’s a collection of all the reviews of Beethoven’s works. So any review, say, of the Fifth Symphony that was published during Beethoven’s lifetime (he died in 1827), and then up to 1830, is in the book. And they’re translated into English, and I’m working on it with two other editors. We’ve published two of the four volumes so far, again from the University of Nebraska Press, and the next two will be published by Pendragon.

A reviewer from 1813 was already writing, five years after the Fifth’s premiere, that it was a “classic” of large-scale instrumental music, but he also pointed out that the famous Scherzo movement had fallen apart at every performance he had heard because of its incredible difficulty. Some critics were still dismayed in December 1826, four months before Beethoven died. One reviewer called the Fifth so crazy and wild that it was contrary to good taste, that it’s monstrously long, and the third movement is so “extremely fatiguing” that the listeners have no desire to hear any more music when the work finally ends. Thank God the poor Beethoven, already on his deathbed, didn’t see that one!

Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069.

’25 Treasures for 25 Years’

Exhibit at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies
When: Saturday through Dec. 11: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fifth Floor, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Library, 150 E. San Fernando St., San Jose
Admission: Free

Filmmaker Michael Moore to Speak at SJSU

Moore Will Receive the Steinbeck Award “In the Souls of the People”

Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, Calif., — Academy Award winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore has been named a recipient of the Steinbeck Award “In the Souls of the People” by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. Continue reading

University Library Launches New Website

The University Library, housed within the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, has launched a new website providing a seamless gateway for SJSU students and faculty members to access academic resources. The site also highlights unique and valuable services.

“The library did extensive usability testing with 47 people, including undergraduates, graduates and faculty, to make sure that the new site would be intuitive and easy to use for an academic audience,” said John Wenzler, associate dean for digital futures, information technology and technical services.

View the website.

Submit comments.

Students Catch the Green Wave, Tackle Energy Audits Date: 08/23/2010

San Jose State will train over 100 students to “catch the green wave” by helping to conduct energy audits in offices and homes. Learn more at “Taking Action on Climate Change and Energy Efficiency at SJSU” at noon Tuesday, August 31, in King 225. The Office of the President will sponsor the event, and refreshments will be served.

SJSU Sustainability Director Katherine Cushing wrote: “This effort will be a partnership with the city of San Jose. Participating students will be formally recognized by Mayor Chuck Reed for their contribution to helping the city meet its Green Vision goal of reducing per capita energy consumption by 50 percent by 2022.”

The Green Wave follows last year’s Ecological Footprint Challenge.

SJSU’s Smashmouth Coach

By: Adam Murphy/Metro

San Jose State’s new football coach, Mike MacIntyre, expects his team to be victorious. He just isn’t sure when the victories will begin. “I know we will win,” he says. “I don’t know when we’ll start, but I know it’s just a matter of time.”

The former Duke defensive coordinator might have to wait a couple weeks before getting that first win. The Spartans open the season by traveling to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama’s Crimson Tide, the No. 1 team in the nation. The so-called “body bag” game is followed by a game against Wisconsin, the No. 12 ranked team in the nation.
The rough start of the season will be a mental and physical challenge for the Spartans, but MacIntyre relishes the opportunity to test his team’s toughness. He says conditioning and toughness are cornerstones of his program and he wants his players to be the most physical squad on the field.

“We’re not there yet by any stretch of the imagination,” MacIntyre says, “but eventually I hope our program has that mentality.”

MacIntyre hopes to establish a ground game. Last year the Spartans were one of the worst rushing teams in Division I, and only two teams had fewer touchdowns than the Spartans. Nevertheless, MacIntyre is steadfast in establishing a power game.

“You have to be a little hard-headed,” he says. “That’s going to be a big part of our offense. We are going to be a team that can run the football.”

MacIntyre is also counting on wide receivers Jalal Beauchman and Josh Harrison to catch passes from the yet-to-be-named starting quarterback. Beauchman is a big body capable of winning a jump ball and Harrison is a speedster.Tight end Ryan Otten has good hands and should be a contributor.

All of the offensive weapons are relying on a strong offensive line—something that was painfully absent last season. Defensive tackle Pablo Garcia sees the biggest improvement this year on the line—offensive and defensive. “We’re going to step up our game,” Garcia promises.

The team is happy to have a different message from a new coach after a 2-10 season that saw 73-year-old head coach Dick Tomey retire. Tomey, the former Arizona legend,, was with the Spartans for five years and managed just one winning season. MacIntyre hopes to build a culture of winning that Tomey wasn’t able to, and that starts with recruiting.

“I honestly believe this is a gold mine,” he says. “There are only seven Division 1 schools in California and there are 1,048 high schools and 70 junior colleges that play football..”

MacIntyre says establishing a winning culture is a step-by-step process. “It’s an everyday thing that builds up,” he says, “and all the sudden it just starts happening.”

SJSU Adds New Courses for Fall 2010

SJSU begins fall term with over 50 new courses, from “Arabic II” to “New Media/New You.” Here’s more from Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies Dennis Jaehne:

“Our new courses provide a peek into how we are responding to changes around us in our social, cultural and technological lives. Examples include the engineering courses in web search, data mining and wireless, and computer science courses in wireless mobile networking and information security.

“In languages, I see the emergence of Punjabi and Arabic language and culture, and new business courses in global leadership and innovation as we prepare to launch a minor reflecting globalization. I note two communications courses that reflect the age, ‘New Media/You Media’ and ‘Internet Inquiry.’ We will also teach new green and biotech courses, mostly technical in engineering.”

U.S. News Rankings 2011

San Jose State Among Top 20 in the West, Engineering Nationally Ranked

Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, Calif., — Once again, San Jose State University has excelled in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. The 2011 edition of “America’s Best Colleges,” available now online, shows SJSU at 14th overall among the West’s top public universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“It is wonderful to see San Jose State consistently ranked among the top 20 in the West,” President Don W. Kassing said. “Our university community works hard to keep SJSU among the nation’s best comprehensive universities.”

SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering also received top marks, ranking seventh in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, excluding service academies.

Read more from U.S. News & World Report.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 27,400 students and 3,190 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.