Less-Expensive Degrees Taking Shape
By Era Sundar
Gov. Rick Perry has been pushing for Texas colleges and universities to make education more affordable since his February 2011 State of the State address. Recently the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education took a look at how schools and other organizations are responding.
College-ruled notebook $3; school-spirit wear $45; extra large coffee to ward off drowsiness in class $5; a 4-year-degree — $10,000? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Some Texas schools have actually made efforts to provide $10,000 college degrees, as Perry has urged.
Dan Jones, president and CEO of Texas A&M University-Commerce, says the school has moved toward providing such a degree. The school employs Internet and face-to-face instruction with flat rate pricing. Students are also accessed by faculty and given credit for prior knowledge. This is designed to cut down on the number of hours that must be spent in the classroom.
“So the student really is in control of the cost,” Jones said. “And the student can move quickly through the program and keep the cost down; if the student moves more slowly through the program, then of course the cost would go up.”
Jones says electronic textbooks where students only buy the portions that will be used in class instruction will also help keep costs low.
But when prices are reduced, questions of quality often follow. Carolyn Wilson Green with Texas A&M-San Antonio, where one $10,000 degree is being offered, says the standards are still high.
“Have we gone to adjunct faculty rather than our full-time faculty in order to achieve efficiencies, and that is not the case. The classes that we offer at the university are exactly the same ones that we offer our students in the bachelor of business administration degree, same faculty, same classes, exactly the same experience.”
Some say using Early College Start high school classes in conjunction with community colleges can help increase savings. But Ann McGlashan, an associate professor at Baylor University, says this is no one-size- fits-all solution.
“In order to take enough dual-credit courses a student would not only have to attend a school that offered such courses, but she would also have to turn on to the whole notion of higher education very early on,” McGlashan said. “In addition she would have to continue with her chosen career without deviation.”
As it turns out, $10,000 college degrees are not easily available.
“I don’t imagine that we’re going to create a lot of $10,000 baccalaureates in fields like engineering and the basic sciences because they require, at least with the current technology, an awful lot of laboratory time and an awful lot of face to face instruction,” said Raymond Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
On the national level, Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education says that college affordability is an issue of growing concern but there is no clear solution.