Community colleges answer Perry's call for cheap degrees

In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Rick Perry issued a challenge to universities to create a $10,000 bachelor's degree with textbooks included, an idea he reportedly picked up from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Is a $10,000 bachelor’s degree possible?

In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Rick Perry issued a challenge to universities to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree with textbooks included, an idea he reportedly picked up from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Though many secretly scoffed, some education leaders say it can be done — quickly and with little extra money – at community colleges.

“We already have the facilities, the infrastructure, the doctorate faculty,” said Bruce Leslie, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges. “You could take community colleges and do that without building a whole new infrastructure, or forcing existing four-year universities to downsize.”

Community colleges in 17 states, including Texas, already offer bachelor’s degrees, most in applied technology areas that do not compete with universities. But that doesn’t mean community colleges are unable – or unwilling – to expand.

“It is an idea that is long overdue,” said Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College in McAllen.

Programs in place

According to Reed, her two degrees in technology management and computer and information technology run about $10,000, not including textbooks. By contrast, the cheapest bachelor’s degree at a four-year university is about $18,000 at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. That does not include books.

South Texas, Brazosport and Midland colleges all offer bachelor’s of applied technology degrees. State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has filed a bill to add a fire science degree at the Alamo Colleges to that list.

But prospects look grim for all those degrees. The House’s proposed bare-bones budget “zeroed out” all bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges and eliminated funding for Brazosport College and three other community colleges altogether.

According to Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, community colleges can be part of the solution, but universities must also find ways to hold down costs.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7425146.html

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Sunday

February 13th, 2011

Staff Reporter EducationNews.org

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