Should We Be Outsourcing Public Higher Education in California?

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Last week State Senator Darrell Steinberg proposed what he thinks of as a bold new way to reshape higher education in California and to deal with the bottleneck of students who have trouble getting into “gateway” classes in our community colleges and universities. What is Steinberg’s answer to our access ills? Sadly, it is outsourcing higher education to the corporate interests who have long been aggressively lobbying to get a piece of the publically funded pie that is California’s public education system.

As Jon Wiener recently put it in The Nation :

“Here’s how California treats its public colleges and universities: first, cut public funds, and thus classes; then wait for over-enrollment, as students are unable to get the classes they need to graduate; finally, shift classes online, for profit. That’s the way Laila Lalami, UC Riverside creative writing professor, explained it in a recent tweet, and that’s pretty much the whole story behind the bill introduced this week by the Democratic leader of the state senate, Darrell Steinberg. His bill requires California’s community colleges, along with the twenty-three CalState schools and the ten-campus university, to allow students to substitute online courses for required courses taught by faculty members. The key to the proposal: the online courses will be offered by profit-making companies.”

There are many reasons to be deeply concerned about California State Senator Steinberg’s proposal to thrust mass online learning (including Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs) onto public higher education institutions. This development is troubling because there was no consultation with faculty before the Steinberg proposal was announced this week. Thus, the valuable experience in teaching face-to-face AND online courses that faculty at our colleges and universities was not brought to bear.

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