In response to Gov. Rick Scott's challenge two months ago to make higher education more affordable, 11 more Florida colleges plan to deliver some degrees for $10,000 or less.
That means all 23 colleges that offer bachelor's degrees in the Florida College System are planning for these degrees, the governor announced on Monday, Jan. 28.
The Florida College System has been issuing baccalaureate degrees for 12 years, primarily in workforce areas including nursing, teacher education, IT; and film, TV and digital media, said Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges. But while students have had access to the degrees, not all of them can pay the tuition.
Currently, students pay about $13,500 for a baccalaureate degree, Hanna said. That's about half the price of a degree from one of the 12 universities in the State University of Florida System.
With a lower price tag, they could save $3,500 or more depending on the program.
"In the Florida College System, we've always been focused on access and affordability, and this helps ensure that we will work toward providing that more students will graduate without debt and that the college will become even more affordable for them," Hanna said.
This initiative won't apply to all students and degrees, though. Instead, each college will decide which programs will meet workforce demands in their area.
For example, Edison State College plans to focus on degrees for secondary math and science teachers, while Broward College is considering transportation and logistics.
"It'll vary from place to place," Hanna said. "And the good thing is it will be focused on local needs and ensuring that people have jobs when they graduate."
The colleges are trying to figure out what financial models will be sustainable. The largest post-secondary institution in the country — Miami Dade College with its 176,000 students — is looking at establishing an endowment to lower the price tag. Other colleges are pondering three different scenarios:
While Florida has brought colleges on board the fastest, the first $10,000 degree challenge originated in Texas with Gov. Rick Perry in February 2011. In his state of the state address, he challenged colleges and universities to create bachelor's degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including the price of textbooks.
As of October 2012, 10 colleges had accepted the challenge, and some of their programs are already in operation.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin created a Texas Science Scholars Program that started in fall 2012. In this program, students could earn a $10,000 Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, computer science, geology, information systems or mathematics.
Also in fall 2012, high school students could start working on a Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences with an emphasis on Information Technology through Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The San Antonio university took a more integrated approach to the challenge by including dual credit courses in three local school districts, classes at the Alamo Colleges and a transfer plan to its campus. That degree costs $9,672.
More recently, a California legislator introduced a bill on Dec. 21, 2012 calling for the Golden State to test the concept of a $10,000 degree. Assembly Bill 51, from Dan Logue of the state's 3rd District, would create a pilot that involves California state universities, community colleges and county offices of education. If the bill contains cost mandated by the state, the state will have to pick up the tab.
He also introduced a bill on January 24 to make a University of California degree $20,000 or less.
Florida and Texas are blazing a trail with a degree at $10,000 or less, but only time will tell if this type of model can succeed, and whether other states will follow suit.