CFHE Working Papers

Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?

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Executive Summary 

Although 50 years of research has shown that faculty/student interaction is crucial to student success, recent trends and newly-adopted practices in higher education actually decrease the possibilities for faculty to interact with students in the amounts and the ways that matter most.

This paper examines the price students pay for several trends in higher education that have gained acceptance without a balanced critical analysis.

If research were driving higher education policy, investing in faculty would be a top priority at every college and university. But what is happening in our country, instead, is a growing disinvestment in faculty.

This paper details how serious and how pervasive this disinvestment in faculty has become, and it discusses the ways in which current policies and practices around faculty hiring and salary are hurting students.

As the research on student success suggests, the churning of the faculty workforce along with reduced opportunities for interaction caused by low salaries and over-reliance on part-time appointments are especially hard on students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students.

If the United States is going to have an educated citizenry for its economy and its democracy, our colleges and universities must do more to provide optimal learning conditions for our increasingly diverse student body.

Given the importance of college degrees for social mobility, especially for low-income people and people of color, our nation’s legislators, university trustees, and campus administrators must make sure that faculty have the time and energy to do all they can and all they want to do for students.

Providing all students with real opportunities for success in college will require a shift in institutional priorities, particularly as reflected in their budgets, to better align our colleges and universities with the core mission of higher education and the role faculty play in carrying it out successfully.

Click here to read the full paper: Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?

The “Promises” of Online Higher Education: Access

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PDF: Promises of Online Higher Ed-Access

Executive Summary

The “promise” that online learning will dramatically expand access to higher education is at the center of the recent push in the MOOC/Online movement.  This paper examines research that can help us answer a crucial question: do online courses provide meaningful access to quality higher education for underserved students, who are those most in need of expanded educational opportunities?

Realities of the digital divide (inequities between those who have regular, reliable access to the internet and digital technologies and those who do not) make basic access to online courses much more problematic for some groups.  In fact, substantial evidence shows that the digital divide remains a reality for the very students that online promoters claim they want to reach— low-income students, students of color, and academically underprepared students. 

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The “Promises” of Online Higher Education: Reducing Costs

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PDF: Promises of Online Higher Ed-Reducing Costs

Executive Summary

The notion that MOOCs and other online courses will reduce the costs of providing higher education and the price students pay for it is a key part of the presumed “promise” of online learning. The question of whether these courses can actually deliver on these grand claims has rarely been explored–and for good reason.  Legislators offering up MOOCs instead of funding, administrators building the “efficiencies” and “innovation” sections of their résumés with MOOCs, and corporate providers of MOOC-related goods and services are not likely to look hard at the costs of actually developing and offering such courses.

This paper looks at the trend of charging students more for online courses and at developments in MOOCs that also point to increased costs for students desiring actual degree credit. In sum, the push for more online courses has not made higher education cheaper for students. The promise has always been that it will –but that day always seems to be in the future.

A tally of the often-hidden costs of producing high-quality MOOCs and other online courses suggests that these courses are not actually cheaper for colleges and universities either.  In fact, if done well, they can even cost more to produce than traditional face-to-face classes.

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The “Promises” of Higher Education: Profits

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PDF: Promises of Online Higher Ed-Profits

Executive Summary

With so much national focus on the “promises” of online higher education to expand access and to reduce costs, one truth about online higher education rarely mentioned is that it is big—Very Big—business.   Understanding and assessing developments in online higher education require that we look at them not just through the lens of industry slogans—“innovation,” “expanded access,” and “reduced costs,” but also through the lens of corporate interest and influence.

This paper examines ways in which investors and corporate leaders have “followed the money” to be made in online higher education–expanding rapidly in areas where profits were robust, moving into virgin territory when new laws or other changes created new possibilities, tweaking their ventures when faced with bad press or regulatory crackdown, and always shaping their sales pitch to make each move appear a boon for students and for our country.

It also discusses the “insider talk” of investors and corporate leaders about online higher education. For parents, students, and the general public who focus primarily on what education means for people’s futures, for social mobility, for a healthy economy and a robust democracy, a dip into the insider talk of online investors and industry analysts is both instructive and disorienting: what will make money for companies in the online higher ed business, insiders acknowledge repeatedly, has nothing to do with the glittery sales pitch.

This piece is the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education’s first step in looking at who is making money, how much, in what ways, and with whose assistance in online higher education.  Only when the public “follows the money” can we assess the full “value” of the seemingly endless stream of technologically-related innovations in higher education and make the best policy decisions for the future of higher education in our country.

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New Report From Campaign for the Future of Higher Education Looks at Efforts to Turn Public Universities into Profit Centers at Education’s Expense.

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For Immediate Release: October 3, 2013
Contact: Alice Sunshine,


Higher Ed Faculty to Discuss Report on Conference Call with the Media on October 9; Report is First in a Series of Three to be Released This Month

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Intro to Funding Higher Education paper series

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Funding Higher Education: The Search for Possibilities

Working papers on ways we can ensure the people of the U.S. have access to good quality higher education.

Over the last 15 years or so, quality public higher education has become much less accessible and affordable for most Americans. The way it used to work was simple—taxpayers funded public colleges and universities sufficiently so that students who were prepared to work a few hours a week could complete their degrees in a relatively short time with a minimum amount of debt. For those with even greater need, government provided state grants and Pell grants.

This system worked well for decades and opened the door to opportunity for millions of Americans, including an increasing number of students of color.

Now, we are told we can no longer afford this. Leaders and policy-makers are giving up the dream of affordable public higher education for Americans. The door into the middle class is slamming shut and the position of middle-class Americans and their children is shaky, at best.

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CFHE Working Paper: Free Higher Ed

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Making All Public Higher Education Free
By Bob Samuels
President, University of California-American Federation of Teachers
Lecturer, University of California at Los Angeles
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CFHE Working Paper: Reset Button

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Financial Options for Restoring Quality and Access to Public Higher Education in California: 2012/13
By Stanton A. Glantz and Eric Hays
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CFHE Working Paper: “Financial Speculation Tax”

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How to Invest in Higher Education: A Financial Speculation Tax
by Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, American Association of Universtiy Professors
Professor of Economics, Wright State University
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