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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Gov. Rick Scott issues $10,000 degree challenge to Florida colleges



As expected, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday challenged the state's 28 colleges to create bachelor's degree programs that cost students no more than $10,000. St. Petersburg College agreed to be the first to accept the challenge, with its Tech Management Program.

"St. Petersburg College is once again excited about the opportunity to be part of a statewide college pilot program that lowers the cost of a college education for the citizens we serve," President Bill Law said in a release. "Affordable education always has been at the forefront of the college’s mission."

The Florida Department of Education, which oversees the colleges, quickly put out a press release with many statements of support.

"Florida must be focused on affordability in higher education. The efforts of our colleges to work to produce baccalaureate degrees at a lower cost should provide a major benefit to our students and help meet Florida's workforce needs," Florida College System chancellor Randy Hanna said in the release. 

"Gov. Scott’s $10,000 degree challenge is an innovative approach that will help keep a college degree within reach of a broader section of students," added State Board of Education chairman Gary Chartrand. Five of the board's other six members also offered their praise for the idea.

Notably absent in the commentary was State Board vice chairman Roberto Martinez, who in a separate letter to the governor panned the idea as a "gimmick pretending to be a policy used as a sound bite," stripped from the playbook of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He urged Scott to reconsider:

"All of us want for our colleges to provide a Bachelor’s Degree that is of high quality and affordable. We are very mindful of the amount of debts our students are carrying and we should strive to do all we can to minimize the financial burdens on our students. I am sensitive to this objective, as I am aware of the impact economic difficulties had on my parents’ ability to pursue their education.  But, with the deep budget cuts over the last five years, it is difficult to conceive cutting the cost of instruction even further while maintaining a quality education. The cost of a Bachelor’s Degrees at many of our colleges cost the students on average approximately $12,000. Reducing this further, to create a cheap four-year degree, will undermine the quality and value of the education, hurting our students’ chances to compete successfully in our 21st Century economy. I am sure that is not the message that you would like to convey. 

"Of course, the cost to the student of a Bachelor’s Degree could be decreased further without sacrificing quality if the State of Florida were to appropriate more funding to the colleges. The burden then would not be placed on the student and the colleges would be able to maintain and even enhance the high quality of their instruction. 

See Martinez's letter attached below.

Skeptics of this idea abound. But there's also the notion that higher education leaders might stop to reconsider the rising cost of degrees at a time when people can't afford them. What's your take on the $10,000 degree challenge?

[Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:13am]


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