On February 28 of this year, Austin, Texas governor Rick Perry gave a public speech challenging local universities to create a bachelor’s degree that could be earned by students at the cost of $10,000 or less.

Perry declared that such a cost-effective degree — one that reduces the cost of a Texas education by two-thirds — would be the beginning of a complete makeover of the current state university education model, paying schools based on graduates rather than the current system, which schools based on a tiered system of enrollment.

At the time, the idea caused Texas educators and administrators to snicker, as the average cost of a bachelor’s degree is currently $26,584, but now universities are rapidly rising to the challenge.

State commissioner of higher education Raymund Paredes said the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is working “aggressively” to make the goal a reality, by utilizing modern technology and increasing the prevalence of online courses.

Virtual Degree

In short, the $10,000 bachelor’s degree will most likely be a virtual degree, as Texas follows the national trend toward online education.

Such a degree would be considered the economical, fast-track version of a traditional degree, and mainly appeal to working adults, parents or young students with obligations outside of schooling, said Van Davis, special projects director for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Davis said that the cost-effective element of the degree will not detract from the quality of the education.

Low Cost

“Low cost does not equate to low rigor,” he said in an article in the Houston Chronicle.

Instead, the reduction in costs will be possible with the removal of a physical classroom, extracurricular activities, and the physical presence of an instructor.

And the lack of physical presence of an instructor will be compensated with high-quality software, interaction of classmates and availability of mentors, Davis said.

“Faculty must be at the center of this,” Davis said in an article for San Antonio Express news. “We know we have the innovators and educators to lead those√ā¬†conversations.”

Leadership

David Young, the governor’s adviser in the state Office of Budget, Planning and Policy, said the governor created such a lofty goal because he knew the challenge would attract high-quality leaders.

“As leaders like Senator Zaffirini search for more low-cost pathways to a degree, it’s time for a bold, Texas-style solution to this challenge, that I’m sure the brightest minds in our universities can devise,” Gov. Perry said in his original speech.

And as donors like philanthropist Jeff Sandefer become involved in the process, Perry’s mindset seems to be realistic.

Now other leaders must step up to the plate to make Perry’s other ideas come into fruition, including his goal to freeze tuition for freshman, allowing them to pay the same amount for all four years of university education.

As Texas public institutions have enrolled 200,000 more students in 2010 than in 2008, Perry said such changes are necessary to give students and families the best value for their money.

“Change does not come easily or naturally to these big institutions, but it is critical to educational effectiveness and efficiency,” Perry said.

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