Monday, February 14, 2011

Is a $10,000 degree possible? Yes

by Andrew Gillen

I’ve been a bit taken aback by the heat Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking for calling for $10,000 bachelor’s degrees. I’d like to make two points.

First, saying that the status quo is unable to achieve something is not the same as saying it can’t be achieved. For instance, we are currently unable to get 60% of young Americans to graduate with a degree. Yet most of the eduworld is aiming to do just that. Does that mean that they are naïve (as Gov. Perry has been called)? Of course not. The whole point of both proposals is to change the status quo in such a way that the new proposal can be achieved.

Second, even the status quo is within striking distance of delivering a $10,000 degree. To do so, they need to spend less than $2,500 per student per year. As Bob Samuels found, “the total average annual instructional cost per student is $1,456.” That leaves $1,000 per year for everything else. Of course, colleges currently spend much more than $1,000 on everything else, so while it wouldn’t be easy, it is certainly within the realm of possibility to lower that figure to $1,000. In fact, since you wouldn’t be touching instruction at all, the vast majority of students wouldn’t even notice the difference.

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