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The $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree Experiment


CREDIT: Flickr/ TheTexasTribune

In February 2011, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) proposed that state universities create a $10,000 bachelor's degree program that would include the price of textbooks, room, and board.

Critics said the proposal was unrealistic and fretted that it could lead to budget cuts in higher education. Perry defended the initiative, calling for savings through increased efficiency, online courses, and creative teaching techniques.

“It’s time for a bold, Texas-style solution to this challenge that I’m sure the brightest minds in our universities can devise,” Perry said at the time.

So far, 10 Texas schools have responded to Perry’s idea with several innovative approaches, including a five-year general-degree pipeline and a program that grants students a degree in organizational leadership after just a year and a half of study.

A major problem these experimenting institutions have run up against is that that the whole crux of the proposal is based on saving money for students and their families—not on saving money for the institutions themselves.

Washington Monthly’s Daniel Luzer criticized the initiative.

“The only reliable way to make public higher education cheap for students is for taxpayers to assume most of the cost of that education. This is not a mystery; this is how it worked until very recently,” he said.

The director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Daniel Hurley, said that the $10,000 bachelor’s degree movement “has spurred continued innovation" and "could spur some new ways of delivering college degrees and credentials."

Perry's proposal hasn't been a silver bullet for tackling the high costs of a college degree, but it has resulted in a few affordable programs within his state and it continues to challenge institutions to create programs that are accessible to all Texans.

Sydney Hofferth is a Communications Intern for Campus Progress. You can follow her on twitter at @squidhoff10.

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