An attempt was made to resolve the growing problem of student debt by a national coalition attempting to ensure that affordable, quality higher education is made accessible to everyone in the US during a three-day conference at the Desmond. Conducted by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, the panel discussions and workshops focused on how student debt acts as a barrier to access and equity at its seventh national gathering from May 16th to May 18th . The theme of the conference is “Building Alliances for Access, Equity and Quality.” It had participants to the tune of 100 higher education professionals, college students, community leaders and unionists from places across the nation.
“Rising tuition costs—too much of it due to lack of funding from state and federal governments—have kept would-be students away and plunged thousands of young people into six-figure debt that will take years to pay off,” United University Professions President Fred Kowal said. “This is where organizations like CFHE, the United States Student Association, Dream Defenders, NYPIRG and Debt Free Future can be so valuable.
“These groups, along with United We Dream, Higher Ed Not Debt, Students for Quality Education, New Jersey United Students—all of who are represented on Saturday’s student debt panel—have the ability to bring local, regional and national attention to this important issue.”
UUP, which hosted the conference, represents faculty and staff at the state-operated campuses of the State University of New York and is a member of CFHE.
Also debuting is the new CFHE video raising major concerns about online college courses and is of the opinion that the online education industry is more inclined towards making money than provide quality education.
“The classroom experience, the interaction between professor and students, the interchange of ideas, cannot be replicated or replaced by Massive Open Online Courses,” said UUP statewide Secretary Eileen Landy, who is coordinator of the campaign.
Also in discussion are ways to involve the community and build coalitions in order to protect the quality of education as well as to create a common agenda to further shared goals.
Chris Hicks, organizer for the Jobs With Justice Debt Free Future Campaign, will give the keynote speech Saturday at noon.
“At every level of the college campus, organizing is on the rise. Students, campus workers, adjuncts, faculty even the student debtors who have graduated and left are organizing. And we will keep rising until we reclaim the promise of higher education,” Hicks said. Jobs With Justice is a national organization that works to make college more affordable through stronger oversight of student lenders.
Members from the SUNY Downstate Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders presented a case study in coalition building. They told participants how they forged alliances to protect SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn as a full-service, public hospital.
CFHE is comprised of dozens of higher education faculty and staff organizations from across the U.S. Formed in 2011 to seeks to guarantee that affordable, quality higher education is accessible to all sectors of society and that the voices of the faculty, staff, students and communities—not just the voices of administrators, politicians, foundations and think tanks—are included in the process of making change and forming its most vital and key aspect-policy.
The basic aim of the campaign is to assure that the emphasis, curriculum, pricing and structure of The Higher Educational System are good for students as well as the quality of education provided by the said system.