At least four states have jumped on the $10,000 college degree bandwagon

by Grace

California, Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin have all taken steps to offer residents a $10,000 college degree option.  This is starting to look like a legitimate trend, with a stronger emphasis on cutting costs than on asking taxpayers to spend more.

“Up until now, the argument over college affordability has been dominated by calls to action on two fronts: lower interest rates on student loans and asking taxpayers to pay more so state legislatures can increase funding to higher education a greater amount,” said Thomas K. Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank with ties to Perry and associated with the reforms the Texas governor and others are pushing. “What this does, this changes the debate to reducing the cost to students and parents, raising expectations about what the public expects from higher education.”

Political leaders from these states emphasize efficiency and the “right” kinds of degrees.

These governors have emphasized degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as more professional degrees, such as teaching and business, rather than humanities. A gubernatorial task force in Florida recently proposed charging students who major in humanities disciplines more to discourage them from entering those fields.

It seems like a mistake to be using taxpayer funds to pick winners and losers among college majors.  Do we need to produce more teachers now, for example?

Support for cheaper degrees has not escaped criticism.

But critics contend such a policy on funding overlooks the value of a liberal arts education and the benefits of training in the humanities. They point to many studies have proven that liberal arts programs produce well-rounded students who often have better communication skills, which aid them in the job market, regardless of whether they were trained for a specific trade.

Many university faculty members have also voiced concern that educational quality would inevitably suffer. If colleges are expected to slash tuition costs without receiving more state subsidies, the cuts will have to be made elsewhere, they note. What’s more, cheaper tuition will not necessarily result in better education, and perhaps the difference will not be noticed until it is too late, they argue.

One compelling argument for the $10,000 degree from Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson:

“… the traditional model is not affordable to many people anymore.”

Meanwhile, one school in the University of Texas system is offering a $5,000 bachelor’s degree.

Texas students with an associate degree in applied sciences now have the opportunity to continue their studies and earn a bachelor’s degree for $5,000 from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

President David Watts announced Tuesday that UTPB is offering an online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with a concentration in industrial technology, for $5,000.

UTPB is located in my old stomping grounds of Odessa, where roughnecks and toolpushers can now work on a college degree during their down-time at the oil drilling site.

The 60-hour completion degree is offered entirely online and will allow students to complete course work whether they’re working at a rig site or sitting in a coffee shop, Watts said.

UTPB is already offering $10,000 degrees in a number of other fields.

The creation of the $5,000 completion bachelor’s degree follows UTPB’s April announcement of the Texas Science Scholars program, which allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in geology, chemistry, computer science, information systems and math for only $10,000. Both programs were created in response to Gov. Rick Perry’s call for affordable college degrees for Texas students, Watts said.

Related:  Step right up and get your $10,000 college degree in Texas! (Cost of College)

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