f you’re sick of hearing about how expensive college tuition has gotten, reading the headline of this blog post might feel like a breath of fresh air. And the best part is that it’s not a joke. Last year, according to an article in The Texas Tribune, Texas Governor Rick Perry challenged universities in the Lone Star State to create a bachelor’s degree that would cost students only $10,000 for four years of tuition, fees, and textbooks. Although his proposal was met with some criticism, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board moved aggressively to tackle the challenge. Bill Gates, who once asserted that web-based instruction and other technology could drive academic costs down to $2,000 per year, inspired Perry’s idea.
Which Schools Offer a 10K Degree?
There are now several schools offering $10,000 bachelor’s degrees in Texas. Texas A&M-San Antonio partnered with Alamo Colleges to offer a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in information technology with an emphasis on computer security. In order to keep the cost of the degree down, students are required to earn an associate’s degree while they’re still in high school and then attend one of the Alamo community colleges before proceeding to A&M-San Antonio. At the University of Texas at Permian Basin, students can earn a $10,000 bachelor’s degree entirely at the school, as long as they qualify for the Texas Science Scholar program, which provides merit scholarships that put a cap on tuition.
The Texas State University System, which is the state’s third major university system, has announced that it will be partnering with Southwest Texas Junior College to create a new “10K Scholars Program,” which will be available in fall 2013. To qualify for this new degree program, high school students must have at least a 2.5 GPA and complete 30 hours of college credit. Then, they have to attend junior college for a year and complete their degrees at Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College. The degree’s cost doesn’t exceed $10,000, because students receive deferred scholarships, provided that they maintain a 3.0 GPA and take 15 hours of classes each semester. Students who follow the prescribed path and meet all of the criteria can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or math.
The University of Texas at Arlington also introduced a new program this July that will put the cost of a bachelor’s degree at $10,000 for qualified students in the Arlington and Mansfield school districts. To take advantage of this opportunity, students must make a six-year commitment. They’ll be allowed to earn up to 24 college credits during their junior and senior year of high school and then continue their studies at Tarrant County College, where they’ll earn an associate’s degree. For the last two years, students will transfer to the University of Texas at Arlington to earn the credits they need to obtain their bachelor’s degrees. Students in the program will have access to scholarships and other financial aid, as well as advisory support and counseling.
Texas A&M-Commerce and South Texas College are also developing a $10,000 bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership to be launched in fall 2013. The program is intended to lower the costs of instruction and materials, while attracting students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The courses will mostly be online, enabling students to work at their own pace.
Are $10,000 Degrees the Solution to Rising Tuition Costs?
Texas’ $10,000 bachelor’s degree programs will allow students with good grades who complete their degrees in a timely manner to earn a degree at a fraction of the usual cost. But some are worried that the $10,000 bachelor’s degree model will affect the quality of higher education. Although Texas’ initiative might not be the silver bullet, it is an effort in the right direction as college costs skyrocket and technologies for online classes continue to improve.