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$10K Degree Update

University Business, March 2013

California, Texas, and Florida tend to be bellwether states for education because of their sheer size. So recent legislation proposed in California should have an interesting effect on the $10,000-degree movement. In January, Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville proposed legislation to make it possible for students to get a degree from the California State University system through closer coordination between high schools, community colleges, and CSU. He later proposed a companion bill for $20,000 degrees from the University of California system. Both proposals are focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Since many $10,000-degree proposals rely on high school or community college credit, “part of this is simply cost shifting,” says Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education.

Similar efforts are further along. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry got the 10K ball rolling in 2011. The University of Texas Vice Chancellor Pedro Reyes says three campuses started programs in the fall. At UT at Permian Basin, it’s focused on STEM. “We have a need for more engineers and individuals trained in the sciences,” explains Reyes. At The University of Texas at Arlington, leaders are coordinating with an area community college and a variety of majors can participate, while the Brownsville campus is working with an early college high school program.

“It’s affordability. That is the bottom line,” Reyes says. With many students in the state not meeting federal poverty limits, $10,000 degrees are a way for them to achieve an education.

Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a $10K challenge in 2012. All 23 community colleges that issue bachelor’s degrees have signed on. Edison State College is adapting its B.S. in secondary biology education to the reduced tuition goal. “The feasibility of offering $10,000 across all degrees wouldn’t be sustainable,” notes Erin E. Harrel, interim vice president for academic affairs. “Some degrees cost more to run.”

“The cost of providing that [$10,000] degree could be more,” Hartle says. “So if you take AP courses, you might only need three years of college, but someone paid for those classes.”