The University of Texas in Arlington is now offering a bargain to students willing to make the attainment of a college degree a priority. A new program announced earlier this month will put the cost of a college education at $10,000 for qualified students in the Arlington and Mansfield school district.
But the workload involved will not be for the lighthearted — it takes a six-year commitment from each attendee and a willingness to begin their college education in high school.
The program is UT’s response to the gauntlet thrown down by Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2011 calling on state universities to design a bachelor’s degree program that will cost $10,000 or less.
“I think it’s genius,” said Jane Harper, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at Tarrant County College. “We’ve been working for years to come up with just the right program. I’m devastated by the tales of students who come out of college with their first degree and are tens of thousands of dollars in debt.”
TCC has offered the dual-credit courses to thousands of high school students every semester, but the new program offers a seamless path from high school to UT-Arlington.
If the program is successful, it could prove to be a template for a more affordable college path at a time when tuition at most colleges and universities is skyrocketing. Students who are selected to take part will be allowed to earn up to 24 college credits during their junior and senior year of high school and after graduating would continue their studies at Tarrant County College, where they will work towards a two-year associate’s degree. For the final two years, students will transfer to UT Arlington to complete the remaining credits required to earn their bachelor’s.
In exchange for committing to six years of increased academic workload, students will get access to scholarships and other financial aid, as well as receive advisory support and counseling to keep them on track towards graduation.
“This is aligning courses at the high school level with community colleges and with the four-year level, to make sure the courses count,” Sullivan said.
The savings mount as the students continue through the six-year plan. Students who complete all three phases of the program and qualify for the scholarships could save as much as $25,000 off the cost of their baccalaureate degrees, and end up paying a total of $10,000 or less for the entire program.
More than 700 students in the Arlington School District are currently enrolled in dual courses that allow them to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Program organizers anticipate that it will be these students who have already shown that they can carry extra academic load who will be most eager to take advantage of the new discounted college degree.