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Big-name universities are sacrificing good teaching for research, making American college students "the orphans of higher education," says journalist Charles Sykes.

"At major American universities virtually everything is more important than teaching classes," said Sykes. He was keynote speaker Thursday at a conference on the doctor of arts program at Idaho State University.Sykes, author of the book "Prof-scam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education," recited a litany of grievances against major American universities.

They included:

- Classes of 500 to 1,000 students, many taught by graduate students, not professors.

- Foreign graduate students teaching undergraduate classes who cannot speak English or communicate with students.

- Completely depersonalized classes taught by videotape, graded by computer scanner.

Sykes covered higher education for a Milwaukee newspaper and taught journalism at two Wisconsin universities. He is working on a second book and speaking about his critique of higher education in America.

He said at a Pocatello news conference Thursday that while educators are trying to increase personal contact with students on nearly every level, major universities often advertise high-profile professors who then rarely have personal contact with undergraduate students.

"In any other industry in America this would be called bait and switch," said Sykes.

Smaller universities like ISU, where teaching is still important, often provide a better education for undergraduates than more expensive big-name schools, he said, "because they actually have professors."

He urged parents to ask tough questions before paying high tuition to send their children to "prestige" universities.

"Parents have to be better consumers," he said. "They should ask about class sizes, about whether they are actually taught by professors.

"Higher education can't continue raising tuition at twice the rate of inflation while students continue to get less and less value for their money," he said. "There has to be some breaking point."