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.
WGU President Robert Mendenhall recently won the McGraw Prize for Education for WGU’s ”flexibility, accessibility and affordability,” reports Kathy Kristof in the Tacoma News Tribune.
WGU is designed for adults. The average student is 36 years old. Some 82 percent are low-income, minority, rural or the first in their family to earn a college degree.
Although the entire school is online, each student has a mentor who works essentially as a college counselor, helping manage the student’s course schedule and checking regularly on his or her progress. The course instructors hold webinars and online study sessions, and can be reached to help students having difficulty with their studies.
The mentors and instructors mostly work from their homes, keeping in contact with students online and over the phone.
WGU instructors aren’t tenured. “Instructors are evaluated based on how well their students do in class and whether their students are satisfied and progressing well in their programs,” writes Kristof.
Students move at their own pace, earning credit when they demonstrate competency. As a result, the average WGU graduate receives a BA in 2 1/2 years.
(Orleatha) Smith said her classes at WGU were challenging, but she completed one of her full-semester classes in a single week. Because she had been working in a related field for 13 years, she already knew almost everything being taught in the course. That allowed her to write the papers and take the tests for the course in record time.
“Instead of everybody coming to the same class and sitting there for the same period of time, we tailor education to the individual,” WGU’s Mendenhall said. “Why should you sit in a class for four months when you know 95 percent of the material?”
A nonprofit, WGU charges $2,800 per semester no matter how many units students take. The average graduate pays less than $15,000 for a four-year degree.