Gas station without pumps

2014 August 13

Explanations for first bill from UCSB

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:31
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In First bill from UCSB, I mentioned an e-mail I had sent to UCSB with queries about my first bill. I got a reply today, so I’ll post their answers (with the typos intact):

  1. Which meal plan did he sign up for?  The $5,202.94 price seems to be between the costs quoted on http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/rates for double room unlimited and double room 17 meals.  I assume that there is some variation from quarter to quarter on price, based on number of meal times, but the rates aren’t broken down by quarter and the bill doesn’t say which meal plan, so I’m not sure what we are paying for.

    To answer your question regarding the meal plan cost, I would recommend to look at his housing contract or he can contact the housing department at 805-893-5513 they will be able to answer this question in detail.

    My summary: “we have no idea what we’re charging you for—it’s not our department”.  I’d love to look at the housing contract, but I don’t believe they’ve sent it yet. Note that the bill comes before the statement of what the bill is for, and even direct inquiry doesn’t get the details.

  2. We requested a student health insurance waiver and appealed the rather arbitrary initial denial (which was an incomplete form e-mail that just complained about the Blue Shield phone number that we had provided).  When will we hear on the appeal of the waiver?  Do we need to pay now and get a credit when the appeal goes through?

    Once the health insurance appeal has been processed you or your student should receive an email of the decision within two weeks. If it has been more then you two weeks he my contact the student health insurance line directly at 805-893-2592.

    We’ll wait a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t tell me whether I need to pay and get reimbursed or simply not pay that portion.
  3. The link to  http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.htm  redirects to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.aspx which just has a pointer to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf  Why not just point to the right document on the bill without double indirection?

    No response, but none expected.
  4. The fees at http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf gives the campus total as  $4,620.05 but the bill is for $4,520.05  Where is the $100 discrepancy?

    He was require to send in $100.00 with his Intent to Registrar. The $100.00 payment is applied towards the first quarter tuition. That is why he is being charged $4520.05 instead of  $4620.05.

    OK, but standard business practice would be to record the deposit with the Statement of Intent to Register as a credit, rather than silently and mysteriously changing the fees.

  5. What is the unexplained “Contract Processing Fee – On” charge on the bill?  There is no mention of this on the document explaining the fees.

    The contract processing fee of $25.00 is for the housing contract.

    Hmm, there is no mention of the “contract processing fee” in the stated price of the dorm contracts. Secret, hidden fees should be illegal.  I expected the RHA student fees, but not an extra fee from the university for handling billing. Furthermore, the fee was on the bill for $50, not $25.  Does the billing office not even know the secret fees themselves?

  6. Is there an easy way to transfer money directly from the Scholarshare 529 plan to UCSB, or do I need to write a check and wait for Scholarshare to reimburse me?
    I will provide you a link with the 529 college saving plan instructions http://www.bfs.ucsb.edu/barc/general-information-students. If you wish to pay the balance out of pocket and then submit your request from the 529 college plan in order to get reimbursed, you may do so.

    The link says that the 529 plan needs to mail a paper check and gives the address.  The check must also include the student’s name and “PERM number”.  The Scholarshare web site does have instructions for sending checks directly to universities, so I could do that or pay the amount out of my current bank account and have Scholarshare reimburse me.  If I ask Scholarshare to send the check, I have no idea how long it will take them—we were warned at orientation that it could take weeks.  So it seems safest to send the check myself and get Scholarshare to reimburse me, as long as I don’t risk overdrawing my checking account.  I’ll wait a couple of weeks to see whether UCSB can process the waiver of the student health insurance correctly.

  7. We were told that the summer orientation charges would appear on the BARC bill, but I don’t see them.  Is there a revised bill coming?

    The orientation department has not charged the orientation fee yet. I would suggest to give it a bit more time and the charge should appear on the next billing statement.

    That seems reasonable, but why is orientation so far behind on their billing?  They should have known when the bills were going to be sent to freshmen and had their billing to the right department at least a week ahead of time.  Note that there is no mention of when the “next billing statement” will be.

Overall, I remain unimpressed with the competence of the business side of the University of California.

2014 August 11

Testing JanSport warranty

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:42
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I’ve had a JanSport backpack for a number of years, and it is beginning to fail rather badly (hole in the leather bottom, main zipper fails frequently, shoulder straps fraying where they join the body of the pack), but rather than throw it out and buy a new back pack as I first intended, I decided to try out the JanSport warranty:

JanSport engineers quality, durable, and reliable products. So, if your pack ever breaks down, simply return it to our warranty center. We’ll fix it or if we can’t we’ll replace it or refund it. We stand by our packs for a lifetime and since we’ve been making packs since 1967, that’s a guarantee you can stand by.  [http://www.jansport.com/shop/en/jansport-us/content/warranty]

I filled out the form, vacuumed out the pack (“State law requires that items be clean before being returned for repair or replacement.”), stuck it in a small box, and mailed it to them today.

In the process of sending it, I found that the USPS now provides a discount for packages if you buy the postage on-line rather than in person.  Shipping the pack to San Leandro, CA only cost me $5.32, which includes $50 insurance and free tracking (it should be there by tomorrow afternoon). The web site does cleverly push you towards their more expensive products (like flat-rate Priority Mail Express), but it is not hard to get the full range of options and find the cheap one.  For most packages the post office seems to have lower rates than the competitors. Though big companies can negotiate lower rates for exclusive contracts with UPS, FedEx, or DHL, people like me who ship one or two packages a year do much better sticking with the post office.

Since a comparable JanSport pack to the one I sent in costs about $55, I think that $5.32 to get the pack repaired or replaced is a good deal.  I suspect that they’ll replace it rather than repair it, since replacing the main zipper, patching or replacing the leather, and repairing the shoulder strap will probably come to far more labor cost than just replacing the whole pack, but I’d be happy to have a functional pack again whether it is new or a repair of the old one.  They don’t make the same color any more, but I let them know which of their current colors would be acceptable replacements, if the pack isn’t worth repairing.

I’ll see in a few weeks, whether the JanSport warranty really means anything.

First bill from UCSB

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:43
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I got the first bill from BARC, the tuition billing system at UCSB.  I can see now why students give up on trying to understand what the university costs—the bill is rather confusing.

There were CA Res U/G Fees-New $4,520.05, Undergrad Health Ins-Fall $856.00, H&RS-Rm & Bd-Dorm $5,202.94, RHA Activ Fee $30.00, and Contract Processing Fee – On $50.00; for a total of $10,658.99 for Fall quarter.  Assuming no changes, that would come to just under $32k for the year.  With books and computer, the college expenses for the first year will be about $35k.

Only the “CA Res U/G Fees-New” had further details on what the charge consisted of, and that only through a doubly indirect web pointer.

After reading the bill, I had several questions that I asked via e-mail:

  1. Which meal plan did he sign up for?  The $5,202.94 price seems to be between the costs quoted on http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/rates for double room unlimited and double room 17 meals.  I assume that there is some variation from quarter to quarter on price, based on number of meal times, but the rates aren’t broken down by quarter and the bill doesn’t say which meal plan, so I’m not sure what we are paying for.
  2. We requested a student health insurance waiver and appealed the rather arbitrary initial denial (which was an incomplete form e-mail that just complained about the Blue Shield phone number that we had provided).  When will we hear on the appeal of the waiver?  Do we need to pay now and get a credit when the appeal goes through?
  3. The link to  http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.htm  redirects to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.aspx which just has a pointer to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf  Why not just point to the right document on the bill without double indirection?
  4. The fees at http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf gives the campus total as  $4,620.05 but the bill is for $4,520.05  Where is the $100 discrepancy?
  5. What is the unexplained “Contract Processing Fee – On” charge on the bill?  There is no mention of this on the document explaining the fees.
  6. Is there an easy way to transfer money directly from the Scholarshare 529 plan to UCSB, or do I need to write a check and wait for Scholarshare to reimburse me?
  7. We were told that the summer orientation charges would appear on the BARC bill, but I don’t see them.  Is there a revised bill coming?

The student health insurance is a particularly annoying charge, as we already have UC insurance for him through my employment at UCSC.  But they have cleverly handed over the processing of student health insurance waivers to Aetna, the company that sells the student health insurance, setting up a massive conflict of interest and ensuring that students seeking waivers will be maximally hassled.  Since the initial denial of the waiver came on a Sunday evening, I believe that Aetna processes them somewhere in Asia (where it would have been a Monday morning).  The sloppiness with which the form email was filled out (blanks not filled in and spelling errors) makes me dread ever having to deal with Aetna for the student health insurance—they’ve already established themselves in my mind as bureaucratically incompetent, and even competent health insurers are a nightmare to deal with.

2014 August 9

WEST closes

As I mentioned in End of an Era, the West End Studio Theatre had their last scheduled performance tonight, with the showcase for the teen Shakespeare Conservatory which they teach with the aid of Santa Cruz Shakespeare. The first week of the conservatory is acting classes, seeing all the Santa Cruz Shakespeare plays, talking with dramaturges, actors, and other creative staff from Santa Cruz Shakespeare and post-performance analysis of the plays.  The second week is intensive work on the showcase that they perform at the end of the week.

They named the show Villains and Braggarts, doing seven scenes and four sonnets.  My son was one of the 5 performers in Sonnet 133 (which they played as a courtroom scene), Malvolio in a scene from Twelfth Night (where he ends the party of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Maria, and Feste), RIchard III courting Lady Anne over the corpse of her husband, and Theseus in the play within a play scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This is the second time that my son has played Malvolio at one of the WEST Shakespeare conservatories—he did the cross-gartered and in yellow stockings scene in 2011.

I thought that they did a very good job of the scenes, but the sonnets were rather hard to follow when played as scenes—I needed for them to go at about half the speed they did to catch what was being said.  Members of the audience who were even less familiar with Shakespeare than me had trouble following some of the scenes also, as they were just snippets from the plays and rather heavily cut.

Although a couple of the actors have graduated from high school, most of the troupe were younger, so I think that West Performing Arts has a good crop of actors coming up, and I’ll continue to go to the teen performances for the next couple of years, even though my son will no longer be on their stage.

I think that the audience most appreciated the fight scene from Romeo and Juliet, where the students got to show off the dagger stage fighting they had learned a week earlier, and the play within a play from Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I overheard plans for  WEST doing a fundraiser (probably for their scholarship fund) in a couple of weeks, but I don’t know whether this will be at the West End Studio Theatre or at Broadway Playhouse.  Next week Terri Steinmann and John Pasha will be driving 10 teens up to Ashland to see five plays there and take a few workshops.  My son will be going, though he’s already seen two of the five productions from when he took the spring trip to Ashland with Alternative Family Education.

2014 August 4

Changes to UC admissions requirements

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:25
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The University of California has just made it much more difficult for students to satisfy the a–g requirements for admission:

Effective for students applying to UC in November 2014 for freshman admission in fall 2015, one full year of Geometry must be completed to satisfy the mathematics (“c”) subject area requirement. In other words, even if students complete three year-long math courses, they will not have fulfilled the mathematics subject requirement for UC admissions unless they have taken, and passed with a letter grade of C or better, one full year of Geometry.

As a result of the revised mathematics subject requirement, the omission of a Geometry course can no longer be validated by higher-level math courses, such as Algebra II/Trig, Trigonometry, Math Analysis, Pre-Calculus, or Calculus, taken at the high school or college level. Furthermore, the omission of a Geometry course cannot be validated with any examination score.

UC faculty have determined that an examination score (SAT/ACT, SAT Subject, AP, IB, etc.) cannot validate the omission of a Geometry course. This includes “challenge” exams taken to demonstrate proficiency in a subject for which a student receives only a Pass or Fail grade. If, however, based upon a challenge exam, a high school awards both grades and units for the completion of Geometry, UC would consider that course omission validated.

A student can use a non-transferrable college/university course in Geometry to satisfy the requirement. However, advanced courses in mathematics, even those that are UC-transferrable, will not validate the omission of a Geometry course.

[http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/counselors/files/geometry-requirement-factsheet.pdf]

My son was fortunate in that he got into UC before this requirement was created, and he had taken a high school geometry course (in 7th grade) that would count:

UC will continue to allow students to self-report on the UC admission application a Geometry course completed in grade 7 or 8 to meet the mathematics (“c”) subject requirement. UC will not require the submission of a middle school transcript, nor will high schools be required to list middle/junior high school math courses on high school transcripts, but doing so is recommended.

But students who are relying on on-line courses are in deep trouble (particularly since the UC-approved online courses are generally rather awful remedial courses):

 Non-UC-approved online courses may not be accepted through principal certification. Beginning with
the 2013-14 academic year, students may use only UC-approved online courses to satisfy the subject
requirement.

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