In February, California Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg introduced a bill that would open the door for massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as Coursera and Udacity, to offer courses for credit to public college and university students in the state. Since its introduction, Senate Bill 520 (SB 520) has generated significant controversy, and a petition by the Berkeley Faculty Association opposing the bill has collected more than 1,500 signatures.
“It’s the wrong solution to the wrong problem,” said Robert Meister, chair of the Council of UC Faculty Associations and professor at UC Santa Cruz, in a phone interview. He argued that the problem is inadequate funding and the solution is to increase it. “The legislature and the governor have been cutting higher education on a per-student basis for ten years,” he said. “The universities and colleges have been reducing the number of admissions, especially at the community college level, and also reducing the number of seats in required courses. Those problems wouldn’t exist if the university, and particularly the community colleges, were adequately funded.” Meister said he believes the state of California could easily restore funding for all three public higher education systems to the levels they were at in 2000, referring to a statement on the Web site of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, which states that “for the median California tax return (individual or joint), restoring the entire system while rolling back student fees to what they were a decade ago would cost $48 next April 15.”
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by Leila Meyer, Campus Technology.