Texas is kicking higher education butt by offering college degrees—start to finish—for $10,000. Awesome. That is opportunity! But, here’s my idea: Utah should see the Lone Star State’s bet and raise it one. Or, rather, lower it one.
My challenge to myself, my legislative colleagues, our visionaries in the Utah higher education system and our friends in public education is to develop college degrees for less than $10,000. Much less. And, while we’re at it, let’s see if we might even raise the quality of the educational experience.
Can the Legislature figure this out? Probably not. We don’t have the expertise. But, rather than a top-down mandate, we can work with each institution to (1) see if they’re interested in the challenge and, if so, (2) get them the tools they’ll need to get it done.
Here, for example, is how Dixie State College could establish a $5,500 college degree—start to finish:
Many Utah high school students get college credit through concurrent enrollment classes. DSC could pick aligned associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees and work with school districts, to perfectly match (1) the associate degree and bachelor’s degree requirements with (2) high school graduation requirements, so that no class is wasted. In other words, each concurrent enrollment class will count toward (1) high school graduation, (2) the associate degree, and (3) the bachelor’s degree. (You’d be surprised to learn how many concurrent enrollment classes don’t end up tracking toward any college degree).
A high school student in this program would graduate high school with both a high school degree and DSC associate degree. That would magically qualify the student for the New Century Scholarship ($1,250/semester). (This already happens; my Zella just did it). Then, the student—by simply aligning our courses better—would have just 2 years of college work remaining to get the bachelor’s degree (at DSC’s tuition rate of $4,000/year). So, here’s the math for the cost of moving forward to the bachelor’s degree:
(2 years x $4,000) – (4 semesters x $1,250) = $3,000 for a DSC bachelor’s degree! (That’s TOTAL, not per year or per semester). Did you see the magic there? We didn’t really create anything new. We simply took the extra step of aligning what we’re already doing. As I’ve said many times before, Utah has many of the basics solidly in place. We are ready to launch. (And I’m quite excited that, with Dave Buhler at the helm of the system now as Commissioner, and with the fabulous Presidents we have at each institution, we will launch).
Why would DSC want to do this? Well, it would get some of the most-motivated and best-prepared students in the state. The $3000 students would have tremendous focus. They would be far more likely to graduate than the typical college student (because time and money are the enemies of college graduation, and these students will cut those monsters in half before they set foot on campus). And, despite the huge financial savings to the students, DSC would receive all the money it would receive for any other student ($4,000/year). In short, the program would make DSC shine. And, most importantly, the program would open the doors of higher education wide to many, many families.
The improved quality of the degree could come from using TICE courses for many of the concurrent enrollment courses. Currently, educational outcomes and competencies vary significantly in college courses. Some times, college students achieve the foundational standards in general education courses. And sometimes they don’t. Through measurable standards, TICE courses better assure that general education courses are preparing a student for future success in upper-level courses.
Pretty neat, huh?
Edit: Originally, the post was titled “How About a College Degree for $5000?” I used an incorrect number (too low) for the New Century Scholarship. Using the correct number, the prospect of affordable college education for our citizens is even more amazing. Again, pretty neat, huh?