Misplaced Priorities 101

Amid a drastic budget crisis, why is the California State University system spending $400 million on computers? And where is the money coming from?

Ernst says the project, despite a few "burps," is still on schedule and within budget. But that budget is itself a product of rough estimates about what each campus will have to spend to get PeopleSoft running. And, so far, the estimating has been rough, indeed.

In 1998, CSU projected that the installation at its Long Beach campus would cost about $12 million, according to project manager Janet Foster. In 2001, the estimate was revised to $22 million.

"This estimate was made when the PeopleSoft Student Administration component was still a new product, so little was known as to what its implementation would require," Foster said in a written response to an SF Weekly inquiry. "The Student Administration component was more than we had originally anticipated in terms of complexity and cost."

Any or all of these glitches could, of course, just be minor stumbles on the way to a successful implementation of a money-saving software suite. Given the history of botched PeopleSoft installations at colleges across the country, of course, any or all of the glitches could also be a harbinger of disaster -- multiplied by 23.

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