How’s that $10,000 Degree Working Out?

Last year Texas Governor Rick Perry announced a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. Soon, Texas students could go to college, all four years of it, for the price of an inexpensive car.

Some state colleges worked to create programs but the project remains, in the words of the Austin American-Statesman, “a work in progress.” According to an article by Ralph Haurwitz:

UT-Permian Basin is among several public universities in the state that have rolled out low-cost bachelor’s degree programs in response to urgings from Gov. Rick Perry, who wants schools eventually to award 10 percent of their sheepskins under this approach.

But a review of the programs by the American-Statesman shows that price point depends on financial aid subsidies or requires students to earn a substantial number of community college credits, in some cases while still in high school.

The actual cost of instruction and materials has not been reduced.

So while it might be possible to earn a bachelor’s degree from a particular college for under $10,000, it’s not like someone can actually take all the courses he needs to graduate for under $10,000.

Another problem is what’s included in the cost. Haurwitz explains that,

Few of the programs include textbooks in the $10,000 price, even though that was part of Perry’s challenge. What’s more, the discount degrees tend to be limited in scope, with many having a strong workforce flavor, raising doubts about whether schools could meet the governor’s goal and price 10 percent of their degree programs at $10,000.

But even if the program is sort of crappy now, many people quoted in the article indicate that the idea has potential. Obviously offering a real, valued college degree for under $3,000 annually is going to be hard work. But just getting people talking about, and expecting, college for so low a price could have a major impact on pushing the plan forward, possibility even to other states.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer