Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bachelors Degrees for $10K? Yes!

chart from Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education
Texas Governor Rick Perry is addressing the question of ballistic costs in higher education by calling on Texas to offer bachelor's degrees for $10,000 in tuition and book fees for the total course.

Here are some ideas on what could be done to make a $10K bachelor's degree a reality.
"1. Focus on 25 of the most important and popular majors: ten of the liberal arts, five natural sciences, two business degrees, five engineering degrees, and one program each in communications, education, and nursing.

"2. Offer a three-year bachelor’s program, requiring 90 credits (thirty three-hour courses). Three-year bachelor’s degrees have been the norm for centuries in Great Britain, with no negative consequences.

"3. Simplify and streamline the curriculum by eliminating all electives and standardizing all required courses. All students in Texas would be required to complete a twelve-course core, sixteen-course major, and two-course minor. This simplification means that the entire state would need only 412 standardized courses (twelve core courses, plus sixteen courses in each of the twenty-five majors).

"4. Select the state’s top scholars and scientists to design the courses, videotaping the best lecturers, purchasing the copyright of the best textbook materials, and designing a suite of web-based learning tools. This would require a significant one-time investment of approximately $500K per course, for a total of $200 million. This money could be drawn from the state’s Permanent University Fund (which generates over $500 million in income each year). For a first-rate education in the 21st century, we need intellectual property.

"5. Require all state universities to offer all 412 courses to their students at a cost of only $250 per, plus $400 per semester for registration services and IT support. If a student took five courses per semester for three years, the total cost per student of the degree would be $9,900. Each student would be given free access to the state’s library of videotaped lectures, the online textbooks, and the web-based tools. The university would provide online discussion sections and laboratory sections.

"Let’s suppose that each instructor receives $40K in salary plus $10K in benefits and teaches 150 students per semester. For each instructor, the state university would receive $75,000 in tuition (300 students times $250), in addition to the $800 per student to cover administration.

"6. Provide mandatory state-wide standardized tests for each year of each program, providing an accurate measure of student learning. The College Learning Assessment, as well as CLEP and GRE Subject exams, could be used to measure students’ progress in critical thinking, logic, writing skills, and discipline-specific competencies. These results could be used to evaluate both courses and instructors on a rigorous, value-added basis for students of different backgrounds and aptitudes."
I got my bachelor's for $430/yr in tuition. Current cost at the same state university is $4,500/yr in tuition.

It's time for a change in strategy--especially since a bachelor's degree for most graduates does not teach future job skills.

Nor does it usually prepare for post-graduate studies since a bachelors in one major does not preclude from going for a master's in another. In fact, my second master's was in a different field from my bachelor's degree. It didn't delay either my ability to understand the material or stop me from keeping up with fellow students who had majored in the same field at the bachelor's level.

Oregon with its out of whack college debt per student needs to be looking at the Perry plan.

For those who need or want more specialized, one-on-one teaching, the $25,000 option is already widely available both in public and private college/university settings.

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