Revamping Higher Education: The $10,000 College Degree

Student loan debt has risen to approximately $1 trillion, surpassing America’s credit card debt. In the midst of prolonged economic downturn, the cost of higher education continues to creep upwards. In an effort to mitigate the looming damage of a deflated higher education bubble, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, asked Texas colleges to come up with a way to provide a $10,000 college degree.  It’s been a year since Governor Perry issued the charge and several colleges have risen to the challenge.

Thomas Lindsay, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, released a comprehensive report exploring Governor Perry’s seemingly impossible idea. The report covers the economic factors affecting higher education, including the little known fact that, “approximately one-third of all higher education institutions have unsustainable business models.”  Finding better, more efficient ways of providing quality education would benefit not only students, but colleges and universities as well.

“Today, the deficiencies in the higher education business model have become manifest. During the past quarter-century, average college tuitions have risen roughly 440 percent. Unsurprisingly, student loan debt has followed the same upward arc.” Dr. Lindsay posits. The problem will only grow worse.  As state budgets continue to cut funding to state schools in order to pay for growing deficits and in preparation for Obamacare, schools ought to look at ways to reduce the cost to the student as well as reducing administrative costs of the programs they offer.

Several schools have come up with creative ways to offer quality education at an affordable price. Texas A&M Commerce is one of those schools. “Instead of thinking in terms of higher-education curriculum, we’re thinking in terms of employer skill sets,” said Rusty Waller, interim program head of the Department of Educational Leadership. Texas A&M Commerce, in conjunction with South Texas College McAllen announced a $10,000 degree program that will be available beginning Fall 2013.  The Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership will be a “competency-based bachelor’s degree rather than a semester credit-hour based degree.” Students will earn 60 credit hours while in high school through the community college before advancing to the university.

Texas A&M San Antonio has a similar program. Pairing with Alamo Colleges, TAMU-SA, will offer a four year bachelor’s degree of applied arts and sciences in information technology, emphasizing information security. The price tag of $9,672 doesn’t include books. This program also admits qualified high school students who obtain 60 credit hours during high school and finish up their degree program with an intense year at Texas A&M San Antonio. 

And this is only the beginning. Texas is creating practical solutions for a very real, very dangerous problem.  Hopefully other states will follow Texas’ lead.