Texas: $10K degree cuts tuition, not costs

Did Texas Just Discover the Cure for Sky-High Tuition?  asks Lara Seligman in The Atlantic. Not really, she concludes.

Texas universities are offering bachelor’s degrees for $10,000, including tuition, fees and textbooks, pushed by Gov. Rick Perry. Average tuition alone in Texas at a public four-year institution is $8,354 a year, close to the national average.

In the Lone Star State, 10 institutions have so far responded to the governor’s call with unique approaches, ranging from a five-year general-degree pipeline that combines high school, community college, and four-year university credits to a program that relies on competency-based assessments to enable students to complete a degree in organizational leadership in as little as 18 months.

Angelo State University has created a four-year interdisciplinary-studies program for an overall cost of $9,974.

The University of Texas (Arlington) will offer a low-cost bachelor’s to students who’ve earning dual-enrollment credits in high school and spent a year at a local community college.

Texas A&M University (San Antonio), has designed a new $10,000 degree in information technology and security which should help graduates find military and security jobs in the region.

Universities aren’t becoming more efficient, however, Seligman warns.

. . . most of these programs would only reduce the price tag for the student, not the cost to the institution of providing the degree. While select students might pay less overall, institutions must deliver the same faculty, facilities, time, and knowledge they provide to students paying full price for their degrees.

If universities don’t find ways to improve productivity, they’ll have trouble subsidizing low-cost degrees.

A $10,000 bachelor’s? Texas CCs say ‘yes’

In his State of the State address, Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged the state’s universities to create a $10,000 no-frills bachelor’s degree with the help of online and AP credits. Perry says he was inspired by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

University leaders say it can’t be done without heavy state subsidies. Online classes aren’t cheaper, if done well, for example.

Some community colleges are doing it now and could do more, reports Melissa Ludwig in the San Antonio News-Express. “It is an idea that is long overdue,” said Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College in McAllen.

At South Texas College, bachelor’s degrees in technology management and computer and information technology cost about $10,000. The cheapest bachelor’s degree at a four-year state university is $18,000 at Texas A&M University in Texarkana.

Brazosport College and Midland College also offer bachelor’s of applied technology degrees. The Alamo Colleges hopes to add a four-year fire science degree. However, the Texas House’s proposed budget eliminates funding for all bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges and closes Brazosport and three other community colleges altogether.

Community colleges can offer alternatives, but universities also need to control costs, said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. “If we keep going the way we are, a baccalaureate degree at a public university will cost $100,000 at some institutions in five years. We can’t go there.”

Community colleges keep costs low because they pay faculty and staff less money and they hire adjunct professors, who are cheaper than tenured faculty. They don’t do research, they don’t field NCAA football teams and they don’t build dormitories and recreation centers.

Those things are what make up the “college experience,” and there will always be young students who want that and will pay for it, Paredes said. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest a growing demand from students who are older, who work, who have families and who simply want a degree as fast and cheaply as possible, he said.

A “low-cost, no-frills degree” should be an alternative, Paredes said.

Community colleges in 17 states offer bachelor’s programs. In Florida, 19 of 28 community colleges offer four-year degrees in high-demand fields such as nursing, education and applies sciences.

Update: Khan Academy is expanding its no-cost online courses by partnering with Bittorrent. What Khan needs is an independent agency to test students’ learning and award a credential employers will recognize, writes Instapundit. Why not Texas?