Professors seek accessibility to higher education

By SUZANNA TOSKEvaseyonline

Philosophy department chair Craig Vasey congregated with colleagues in the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [CFHE] to discuss the depletion of higher education throughout the country.

Vasey, who is a member of CFHE, is also the Virginia representative for the American Association of University Professors.

The CFHE, which originally began two years ago in California, focuses on altering the discussion about higher education in the country by addressing the recent cutting back on federal funding for land-grant colleges in the nation.

“We [CFHE] ensure that the emphasis, curriculum, pricing, and structure of our nation’s higher education systems are good for our students and the quality of education they receive,” according to the CFHE website.

Other older organizations, such as the California Faculty Association, the Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors, work with the CFHE in order to achieve affordability for a proper college learning experience.

The CFHE’s goal is to address the increasing use of part-time faculty at colleges, the denial of community college students due to budget cuts and unavailability of professors and the increasing student debt that impacts individuals and families across the nation, according to Vasey.

Junior environmental science and education major Katy Chase believes in the importance of learning.

“Education is cyclical; you never stop learning and passing on that information to others,” said Chase. “If we deny students the opportunity for higher education, we deny future generations the chance to be taught by educators who truly love to teach.”

Senior English and education major Allison McMillan respects what the CFHE hopes to accomplish.

“We live in a world where a college degree is of increasing importance, yet we’re making them increasingly less accessible,” said McMillan. “I think it’s extremely important to try and find solutions to these problems, and I’m happy to hear that there is a campaign to raise awareness on this issue.”

Vasey mentioned that there have been dramatic increases in administrative hiring nationwide, but also cutbacks on full-time faculty for cheaper, part-time labor.

“In the media, a common claim is that faculty salaries are to blame for rising costs. This is absolutely false,” said Vasey.

According to Vasey, 77 percent of all teaching in higher education in the U.S. is now done by part-time faculty.

“Thirty years ago, that 70-to-30 spilt was in the opposite direction,” said Vasey.

There was a 31 percent point difference between wealthy and poor Americans who earned a bachelor’s degree 30 years ago. Today, the gap is 45 points, according to the New York Times.

The CFHE addressed the effects of rising tuition rates on college students and school’s curriculum, and defined an ideal higher education and the costs to achieve it in a release to the media.

In one of the CFHE’s working papers, Bob Samuels, a lecturer in the writing programs at the University of California, argued for transferring current government spending to higher education and eliminating regressive tax breaks.

Rudy Fichtnebaum, economics professor at the Wright State University in Ohio and national president of the American Association of University of Professors, explained how to succeed in funding for higher education through miniscule tax on selected financial transactions according to another paper for the CFHE.

Vasey said that it once was understood that higher education was a public good, but today that vision is under attack.

“But the change we want in the conversation is to return to a vision of education as a public good, as available and accessible to anyone who wants it,” said Vasey.

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