Faculty members want in on national debate about higher education

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Elizabeth Hoffman teaches at California State Long Beach and is associate vice president of the California Faculty Association.

Dozens of faculty members from colleges and universities across the country met over the weekend in Los Angeles. They want the national debate about higher education to include some voices from the classroom.

The professors and lecturers came from campuses in 21 states. They’re worried that the tough economy is forcing short-term cutbacks that could do long-term damage.

Elizabeth Hoffman of the California Faculty Association says that’s cheating the current generation of public university students. "They are not getting the same access to the same quality education that their grandparents and parents got," said Hoffman during a Monday conference call.

Hoffman teaches English at Cal State Long Beach. She says tight budgets mean fewer courses, bigger classes and closed departments on California campuses.

She and other teachers are worried about one apparent solution: courses taught on the Internet. "Online classes are expensive and they also can end up driving students away from higher education, which is going to be expensive for California."

Hoffman and other faculty members say they’re not opposed to technology. They say it works well for some students – like professionals returning to school. But they say face-to-face instruction is the best way to engage younger students, especially those who’ve struggled to get into a public university.

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