The $10,000 College Degree? It Might Be Coming to Florida

It looks like Texas Governor Rick Perry's call for a $10,000 college degree idea is faring better than his failed Presidential bid. In 2011,...

It looks like Texas Governor Rick Perry's idea of a $10,000 college degree is faring better than his failed Presidential bid. In 2011, Perry challenged his state's higher education institution to cap costs at $10,000 and sure enough, at SXSW 2012 three schools announced plans to do just that—one bachelor's degree from Texas A&M at San Antonio even clocked in at a mere $9,700. Now Florida governor Rick Scott is jumping on board the $10,000 degree bandwagon. On Monday he issued a similar challenge to his state's colleges and universities.

So how much do Florida's students currently spend? The average cost for a bachelor's degree at one of the state's community colleges currently costs $13,264 per year and in-state residents pay roughly $24,000 to attend one of Florida's public universities. But, according to the Orlando Sentinel, Scott—like many governors—has pressed higher education leaders to reign in costs so that college is more affordable for Florida's students, thus creating a pipeline of educated workers for the state's economy.

The need for affordable higher education is certainly there. According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, a full "56 percent of students enrolled in the 2010-2011 school year qualified for subsidized meals" and homelessness among students is up sharply since the start of the recession in 2008.

As in Texas, administrators from several Florida colleges vowed to take on the challenge. After all, several of the schools are already working on ways to curb costs, like giving discounts to students who enroll in certain degree programs or encouraging high school seniors to earn more AP credits.

However, not everyone in Florida is on board. State Board of Education member Roberto Martinez called Scott's challenge "a gimmick" and nothing more than "a sound bite." Indeed, Scott—like Perry—was mum on specific suggestions for lowering costs and state law has to be changed in order to reduce tuition.

One of the challenges Scott and Florida's education officials will surely have to grapple with is a criticism that Perry's initial challenge—and the resulting efforts in Texas—surfaced: At what point do these kinds of bare bones—because that's surely what it will be—college degrees turn the higher education experience into nothing more than a glorified diploma mill? Besides, the real issue is that state higher education systems aren't fully funded. If they were, there'd be no need to pass operating costs on to students in the form of staggering tuition increases. Wouldn't you like to see Rick Perry and Rick Scott tackle that?

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