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Teachers, Professors Get Creative to Raise Money During Tight Budget Environments

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“Mr. Volk plastered the restaurant’s logo on the syllabus, handed out the stickers to the course’s 250 students and, on the first day of class, projected its stick-figure devil image, with horns, tail, and pitchfork, on one of the classroom’s walls.”

As the recession takes its toll on school budgets around the nation, some instructors are coming up with new ideas for raising revenue for their programs and courses.

A recent article in USA Today features Rancho Bernardo High School in suburban San Diego, where administrators recently informed teachers that the district was cutting spending on supplies by nearly one third. That was a problem for calculus teacher Tom Farber, who realized that, at 3 cents per page, his tests would cost about $184 more than his copying budget allowed. Because Farber wanted to give his students enough practice for the Advanced Placement test in the spring, he took matters into his own hands and started selling advertisements on his test papers. His price scale was $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, and $30 for a semester final.

According to the article, Farber has collected about $350 from his venture and his final semester is sold out. Most of the ads are inspirational messages from parents, but some are ads for local businesses, such as two from a structural engineering firm and one from a dentist who urges students, “Brace Yourself for a Great Semester!”  Paul Robinson, the principal of Rancho Bernardo, tells USA Today that reactions have been “mixed,” but notes that “It’s not like, ‘This test is brought to you by McDonald’s or Nike.’”

Officials at the University of Montana at Missoula were not as willing to condone advertisements in the classroom. In recent months, professors in the history department were told that long-distance phone calls would no longer be paid by the university and that the annual travel budget would be cut to $350 per person. The final straw may have been when the copy machine ran out of toner and the department had to finish the semester without it.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher EducationProfessor Kyle G. Volk set up an agreement with El Diablo, a locally owned taqueria, to sponsor his course, “The Americans: Conquest to Capitalism” for $250. In exchange, “Mr. Volk plastered the restaurant’s logo on the syllabus, handed out the stickers to the course’s 250 students and, on the first day of class, projected its stick-figure devil image, with horns, tail, and pitchfork, on one of the classroom’s walls,” the article reads.

When university officials found out about Volk’s new sponsorship, they told him that his agreement violated a 1977 campus policy that reads, “the use of paid advertising relevant to academic programs or offerings shall be limited to the dissemination of information rather than solicitation.” However, because the officials ruled that Volk made a “good-faith mistake,” he was not punished.

Ads on tests add up for teacher” is available at http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-12-01-test-ads_N.htm.

When Ads Enter the Classroom, It’s a Deal With El Diablo” is available at http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i16/16a00104.htm.

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