Will Texas’ $10K Degree Programs Revolutionize Higher Ed?

Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking an unusual path in his effort to bring down the cost of college for the state’s students. For more than a year he has been encouraging the schools in the state public university system to come up with degree programs that would allow students to get a bachelor’s degree for a total price of $10,000. Such a degree program would cost residents only slightly more than one year of attendance at the state’s public four-year colleges.

So far, ten schools have announced plans to offer such degree programs. Most rely on allowing exceptional students to take college-level courses starting in high school, transferring to a community college upon graduation and then finishing up a degree at a four-year institution, but some provide for a greater degree of flexibility by relying on competency-based exams on material that students learn in their own time.

At Angelo State University, admissions will begin in January for a four-year interdisciplinary-studies program through which students can combine three separate minors into one bachelor’s degree for an overall cost of $9,974. ASU President Joseph Rallo envisions the program as the perfect fit for an adult who is interested in broadening his skills in order to advance his career, not necessarily a student looking for the traditional college experience.

Even those who weren’t initially on board with the idea of the $10,000 degree have come around as far as to hope that other states might introduce similar efforts. Even so, not everyone thinks that this could present a real solution to the problem of growing tuition.

According to National Journal, critics point out that real tuition savings could only come to pass if universities find a way to trim their expenses. The $10,000 plan doesn’t qualify, because it resembles not a revenue-saver but a novel implementation of a scholarship. Many universities acknowledge as much, saying that while the cost to the student will be low, the schools themselves won’t be realizing many savings — if any at all.

“I question an artificially set benchmark of $10,000,” said Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, adding that the discussion of actually containing the costs of education for the institution is “often missing” from such initiatives.

Hurley also pointed out that whether employers would think equally as well of the $10,000 degree as they would of a traditional four year program is still up in the air. Employers who think that a good education requires substantial investment might turn their noses at something so inexpensive.

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