$10K degree provides high value

No online lecture can equal “the surprise, the frisson, the spontaneous give-and-take of a spirited, open-ended dialogue with another person,” says Darryl Tippens, the provost of Pepperdine University.

Arthur C. Brooks’ no-frissons, $10,000 bachelor’s degree “was the most important intellectual and career move I ever made,” he writes in the New York Times.

After high school, I spent an unedifying year in college. The year culminated in money problems, considerably less than a year of credits, and a joint decision with the school that I should pursue my happiness elsewhere. Next came what my parents affectionately called my “gap decade,” during which time I made my living as a musician.

Ready for school in his late 20s, he discovered Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. , a virtual college with no residence requirements. Edison “banks credits acquired through inexpensive correspondence courses from any accredited college or university in America.”

I took classes by mail from the University of Washington, the University of Wyoming, and other schools with the lowest-priced correspondence courses I could find. My degree required the same number of credits and type of classes that any student at a traditional university would take. I took the same exams (proctored at local libraries and graded by graduate students) as in-person students. But I never met a teacher, never sat in a classroom, and to this day have never laid eyes on my beloved alma mater.

After spending $10,000 on his bachelor’s degree, Brooks invested $5,000 in a master’s at a local university while working full time. Only as a student in a residential PhD program did he endure “the standard penury,” but he completed three degrees with no debt.

He became a tenured professor in behavioral economics at Syracuse University and now is president of the American Enterprise Institute.

. . . my 10K-B.A. is what made higher education possible for me, and it changed the course of my life. More people should have this opportunity, in a society that is suffering from falling economic and social mobility.

Higher ed’s bubble is about to burst, writes Brooks. Many people must make a “cost-effective college investment” or forego higher education. “The entrepreneurs who see a way for millions to go to college affordably are the ones who understand the American dream,” Brooks writes. “That dream is the opportunity to build a life through earned success. That starts with education.”

Amy Alkon writes: “Had my parents not paid, I might have done what I advise kids who come from poor families to do (when I talk at a school) — go to a good community college like Santa Monica college for two years, gotten great grades . . .  and then transferred to a better, four-year school.”

Brooks, the son of professors, is an outlier, not an example of the typical nontraditional student, writes James M. Patterson on Minding the Campus.

California considers approving two-tier tuition

Santa Monica City College‘s plan to charge higher prices for high-demand English and math classes was abandoned in the face of protests — and the state community college chancellor’s warning that the idea probably was illegal. But now a bill in the California Legislature would legalize tw0-tier pricing for courses that cost more to deliver, reports Inside Higher Ed.

State Sen. Roderick D. Wright has introduced legislation that would let community college boards charge more for high-cost technical education or job training classes, making those classes self-supporting.

“This bill would allow community college districts to charge students for the actual costs of the courses,” according to the legislation, including the cost of instruction, equipment and supplies, student services and instructional support.

Wright hopes to expand community colleges’ capacity so they can compete for students with for-profit colleges,  said Stan DiOrio, Wright’s legislative director.  A Democrat, Wright represents a low-income and working-class area in south Los Angeles  where for-profit colleges are recruiting minority students, often for certificate programs to train security guards, chefs and bookkeepers.

California has rejecting pricing differentials before, but this time the pressure is much greater, notes Inside Higher Ed.

The state’s 112 community colleges have been walloped by deep budget cuts, which have forced them to turn away hundreds of thousands of students — an estimated 200,000 this year alone. And an additional $300 million cut looms if the state’s voters don’t pass a tax hike this fall.

Tuition levels at the colleges, which serve 2.6 million students, will rise to $46 from $36 this summer. But even after the increase, California’s community colleges will charge less than half the national average in tuition and fees.

That’s a source of pride in a state with a deep commitment to cheap, open-access public higher education.

But it means that students pay in time wasted when they can’t get into critical classes to complete a degree or transfer.  And many decide it’s cheaper to earn a for-profit certificate or degree quickly, even though the cost is much higher.

Still, differential tuition is very, very controversial in the state. Very.

Santa Monica CC protesters pepper-sprayed

Thirty students protesting premium pricing for in-demand classes were pepper-sprayed when they tried to storm a Santa Monica City College board of trustees meeting.

A handful of protesters suffered minor injuries as campus police tried to prevent dozens of students chanting, “Let us in, let us in” and “No cuts, no fees, education should be free,” from disrupting the meeting during a public comment period, the Los Angeles Times reported.

College president Chui L. Tsang defended the police response in a statement.  “Santa Monica College regrets that a group of people chose to disrupt a public meeting in an unlawful manner,” he added. “The college has launched a full investigation into the matter.”

Hit hard by funding cuts, the college plans to offer two-tier pricing for high-demand classes. Students willing to pay $200 a unit — four times the regular price — could get into classes while others would remain on wait lists.

The chancellor of California’s community colleges has asked Santa Monica to hold off on two-tier pricing till its legality is determined.