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Education The Almighty Buck Politics

Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook Press WA For $40M For New UW CS Building 102

theodp (442580) writes "Nice computer industry you got there. Hate to see something bad happen to it." That's the gist of a letter sent by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Code.org, and other tech giants earlier this week asking the WA State Legislature to approve $40M in capital spending to help fund a new $110M University of Washington computer science building ($70M will be raised privately). "As representatives of companies and businesses that rely on a ready supply of high quality computer science graduates," wrote the letter's 23 signatories, "we believe it is critical for the State to invest in this sector in a way that ensures its vibrancy and growth. Our vision is for Washington to continue to lead the way in technology and computer science, but we must keep pace with the vast demand." The UW Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering profusely thanked tech leaders for pressing for a new building, which UW explained "will accommodate a doubling of our enrollment." Coincidentally, the corporate full-press came not long after the ACM Education Council Diversity Taskforce laid out plans "to get companies to press universities to use more resources to create more seats in CS classes" to address what it called "the desperate gap between the rising demand for CS education and the too-few seats available.
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Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook Press WA For $40M For New UW CS Building

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:16PM (#49151661)

    This is the worst kind of corporate welfare: public costs for private benefits.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:32PM (#49151739)

      This is the worst kind of corporate welfare: public costs for private benefits.

      Yes, it is pretty silly for them to expect the government to educate people. It is not like an educated population is some kind of public good.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, it is pretty silly for them to expect the government to educate people. It is not like an educated population is some kind of public good.

        ^^^^^^ and this is the worst kind of shill that tries to convince others that stealing others wealth for the "common good" is the right thing to do.

      • by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:07PM (#49151843) Homepage
        And how should the government do that? With the tax income that these companies managed to avoid paying? Cool story bro.
        • The companies may dodge the taxes on their income, but it's pretty hard to dodge taxes on their employees. Granted, WA doesn't have income tax, but there are also property and sales taxes. It would actually be interesting to see just how much the employees of all the companies listed (specifically, their WA offices) generate.

        • Don't students pay tuition? Shouldn't that help recoup the costs?

          For every dollar the companies are asking the state to contribute, the companies are going to match with $1.75

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The University of Washington owns 20% of Seattle real estate. The subject of "tuition" is another (equally as gross) conversation as this one. This whole subject is disgusting. 40 mil investment between these companies is what they pay in petty cash a year for stupid shit like primo salami at fancy in-house marketing meetings.

        • And how should the government do that? With the tax income that these companies managed to avoid paying? Cool story bro.

          The government should take money from the poor and funnel it into the coffers of these corporations. Did you miss the part where government is for the privatization of gains and the socialization of losses?

        • by ranton ( 36917 )

          And how should the government do that? With the tax income that these companies managed to avoid paying? Cool story bro.

          Governments shouldn't count on companies for their tax income. Corporate tax systems provide too many opportunities for a race to the bottom. Getting tax revenue from income taxes and property taxes will not be affected by a race to the bottom situation. Making your jurisdiction attractive to citizens by providing good services and attracting good companies is a much better way to ensure good tax revenue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        my question is why are they asking the government to teach people coding when they refuse to hire american coders because they wont hire you because they can't pay you the shitty wages of a fry cook at mcdonalds.

      • It is not like an educated population is some kind of public good.

        It's not, if you're speaking about the economic term. A 'public good', to an economist, is something that cannot be provided by the private market (a "market failure") and therefore must fall to a government to provide. Education is one where the private market excels in comparison to the public provision, which would be a counter-example.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          A private market excels at providing exceptional education to individuals with exceptional means. So long as you are content with every future generation having fewer individuals with means, this is a good way to go.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Thank you. More at root, the private market specifically excludes a moral compass, therefore cannot point toward the greater good, except by chance. All other exchanges take this into consideration.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday February 28, 2015 @12:06AM (#49152221) Homepage Journal

        Yes, it is pretty silly for them to expect the government to educate people. It is not like an educated population is some kind of public good.

        Well, it is a benefit to the public as a whole to a large degree, but there is a dark side, too. The main reason that companies want to increase enrollment in CS is to get a larger pool of people to draw from so that they won't have to pay employees as much.

        • get a larger pool of people to draw from so that they won't have to pay employees as much.

          This is the Lump of Labor Fallacy [wikipedia.org]. There is not a fixed amount of programming to be done. Companies will start or expand based on the labor and skills available. If plenty of programmers drove down prices, then programming salaries would be lowest were programmer were common, such as Silicon Valley, and highest where programmers were rare, such as rural areas and third world countries. This is the exact opposite of reality.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            You're confusing cause with effect. Programmer wages aren't high in the Silicon Valley because of having a lot of programmers. There are a lot of programmers because the wages are so high that CS majors come here in droves after college.

            The reason the wages are so high here is because of basic supply and demand at work. Silicon Valley has only about a 3.6% unemployment rate among programmers, and a lot of the unemployed either want to be unemployed or are unemployed because their specific skills aren't

      • Meanwhile, Microsoft is backdooring a bunch of foreign workers [not from Canada or the US] to work in the US by first getting them to work in Canada for a year then transferring them to the US. Thanks Harper, for letting Microsoft import an UNLIMITED number of people this way.

    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:07PM (#49151841)

      Dear Microsoft,

      Sorry, but according to your tax filings you are headquartered in Nevada so investing in a Washington University for a Nevada corporation makes no sense.

      - Washington

      • Those corporations are investing $1.75 for every dollar they are asking the state of Washington to invest in the education for jobs in the state of Washington... Do you suggest those companies should invest in the education of Nevada residents instead, or should they just keep their money and let the lack of qualified graduates help them make the case for even more H-1B visas?

        • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Saturday February 28, 2015 @04:25AM (#49152653)
          There *is* no lack of qualified graduates. Haven't you been reading the other stories the last five years on slashdot about companies literally attending seminars about how to legally *avoid* American candidates by doing the legal bare minimum to hire an American before hiring an H1-B? An H1-B they were specifically targeting from the very beginning, regardless what American candidate might through sheer luck or connections actually find the job they were trying to hide?

          What about the stories in which at least one of the same companies who signed this letter got caught colluding to suppress wages and reduce employee mobility in Silicon Valley, by refusing to hire employees away from other top companies?

          Pumping more and more and more money into education is flooding the market, not meeting a need. It's just another step in the quest to manipulate their labor supply until they can get top dollar talent for bargain basement prices.
      • Plus 10,000!
    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      In contrast to what other kind of corporate welfare, exactly?

    • by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @11:21PM (#49152091)

      You know, if these companies were good corporate citizens, and paid their fair share of taxes, then I'd certainly feel they have a right to comment on the disposition of said taxes.

      But they don't do they?

    • how the hell did you get marked insightful, even on here. This is EXACTLY the sort of welfare programs that government should be investing in, investments that lead to jobs for members of the public, investment that leads to higher income and the ability for the state to attract other corporations and investment.

    • Plus 1,000!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to bet its so we can get cheaper labor but wtf do I know other than my superiors keep lowering by hiring budgets.

  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:19PM (#49151683)

    But dang, MS, you could write a check and it'd be a fucking rounding error on your earnings last year...

    • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:25PM (#49151721)

      MS could give a full free ride including rent, food, and gas to a good number of students every single year and it would be the rounding error on their earnings.

      • MS could give a full free ride including rent, food, and gas to a good number of students every single year and it would be the rounding error on their earnings.

        And if they tied that education to a job at Microsoft, they would come out ahead, even if they paid industry standard wages.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        A 40M raise would just raise the cost with 40M. They should not pay the students, because that would be an incentive to raise prices even further, because they will be able to charge more.

        • See the problem with that logic is it's not logical at all. You can use that to say "no" to ANYTHING good, it's just an excuse to screw people. The solution is you don't let them price gouge.

    • But dang, MS, you could write a check and it'd be a fucking rounding error on your earnings last year...

      Same goes for the government...

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:25PM (#49151903)

      But dang, MS, you could write a check and it'd be a fucking rounding error on your earnings last year...

      UW's current CS building is the Paul Allen Center - guess where they got the money for it?

      Incidentally, the Paul Allen Center has NO CLASSROOMS. This proposed new building likely won't have them either. When they speak of "accommodate a doubling of our enrollment", what they really mean is it will give them enough office and lab space so they can double the size of their faculty - the classes will still have to be held elsewhere on campus, and the supporting funding will also have to come from somewhere else.

      • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:34PM (#49151937)

        And if you don't believe me, here is this quarter's CSE time schedule [washington.edu]. Classes are held all over campus because they didn't put any classrooms into the Paul Allen Center.

        So that photo at the top of the GeekWire story - the one with the packed CS class? I'm fairly sure that's in Kane Hall! The new building will do nothing to ameliorate that.

      • Based on my own experience, CS classrooms don't really need to be high tech. You can hold them anywhere, as long as you have a laptop computer with a projector attachment. The labs are where things always got crowded, and that may be what's currently limiting CS enrollment.

        This would mean that the total number of enrolled students wouldn't increase, but the specific number of CS students from the population of the campus could increase as a percentage of all majors. This makes some sense, because to incr

        • The labs actually pull in money for most universities, when students are not using them they are rented out for private training. I remember the head of CS department bitterly complaining about being forced to share the bounty with other departments.

          As for TFA the companies are offering $1.75 for every dollar they state puts in, that's not a shakedown, that's philanthropy. That education in the US has to rely on philanthropy is the real shakedown.
  • by david_bonn ( 259998 ) <davidbonn&mac,com> on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:34PM (#49151743) Homepage Journal

    Back when I was an undergrad in that program they limited themselves to 100 undergrads. EE was a separate program.

    And the CS department was in a very dumpy building right across from the Student Union building that was a notorious firetrap.` That was a couple of buildings ago. If I remember they remodeled their current building (the old EE building) in 2003.

    • by ZipK ( 1051658 )

      And the CS department was in a very dumpy building right across from the Student Union building that was a notorious firetrap.` That was a couple of buildings ago. If I remember they remodeled their current building (the old EE building) in 2003.

      The department has already outgrown the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering [washington.edu], which was dedicated in 2003. The department's previous home was the decrepit (but homey) Sieg Hall [washington.edu].

  • Call me cynical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:37PM (#49151751)

    Translation:

    "As representatives of companies and businesses that rely on recent graduates that are ignorant of their own value, we believe it is critical for the State to invest in our bottom line in a way that ensures continued profit delivered to our shareholders. Our vision is for Washington to continue to lead the way in producing an abundance of CS graduates, so that the few that actually negotiate their salary can't get what they want because the market is flooded."

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @09:53PM (#49151797)

    I mean, holy crap, what facilities do you need to teach CS? A climate-controlled room with whiteboards, markers, chairs, some electrical outlets, and wifi. Bonus points for a projector.

    Most CS happens in your own head, on your laptop, or by talking with other people. You don't need to be on the Starship Enterprise.

    • I'd say instead of facilities a CS course requires really good faculty . That is certainly a plus point .
    • I will preface this by saying "this is really true" because you probably would otherwise read it as a nonsense, sarcastic, or glib comment.

      I heard a conversation the other day about some of the terrible new buildings at the nearby university. A very senior administrator said (paraphrased), "you need to hire a hot architect and pay him 20% of the project price to come up with some really shocking architecture, to prove to prospective students that the school is still relevant."

      I think he was talking mostly

      • It has to somehow come down to a global university .. using the media technology we have today ..
        who would have thought that we'd have a useable global encyclopedia 20 years ago?
  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:01PM (#49151819)
    Remember all these companies pay shockingly small amounts of taxes, both at the state and federal level.

    I have a counter suggestion: make the bastards pay reasonable taxes, and then the state will be able to afford to put up a nice shiny new building. Instead of having to say, beg $70 million in the first place.

  • by BlueKitties ( 1541613 ) <bluekitties616@gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:16PM (#49151875)

    Apple literally has $178,000M in cash on hand, and the state had better ensure that $40M go to educating their future workforce.

    Seriously. The good press Apple would have received to fund that project would be mind numbing, and probably pay for itself in terms of the PR and 'free' advertising that would result.

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:48PM (#49151979) Homepage Journal

    You drop your H-1B visa requests.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the government says "no", it's exactly the justification they need more more H1B.

      "We tried to get more local employees, but the education just isn't there"

  • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @11:06PM (#49152045)

    Would it perhaps be better to take sharp kids straight out of HS who have the interest and the aptitude, and give them 2-3 year internships where they learn 'on the job'?

    (I'm a web guy, so I'm not sure if that style of training would carry over to things like embedded systems.)

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @11:08PM (#49152049)

    Public Disclosure Commission records [wa.gov] show that five of those who signed the letter calling for increased WA State spending - Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Director Brad Smith, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, Madrona VC and Amazon.com Director Tom Alberg, Ignition Partners VC Brad Silverberg, Trilogy VC John Stanton - contributed money in 2010 to defeat I-1098, an initiative for a WA state income tax. Other contributors to Defeat 1098 included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon exec and Code.org Director Jeff Wilke, Microsoft Corporation, and other Microsoft execs, including then-CEO Steve Ballmer. After I-1098 went down in flames, Ballmer announced plans to sell $2B of Microsoft stock [slashdot.org] that might have been subject to as much as $180 million in state taxes under the quashed proposal.

  • $40M divided amongst those four companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google) is a drop in the bucket. If it's so important to them, let them pony up the money.

  • by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Saturday February 28, 2015 @10:57AM (#49153793)
    Please give free money to help us compete in the glorious free market.

    Regards,

    The tech industries of Washinton State

    P.S. - Remember, it's not socialism when you give welfare to corporations.

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