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The $10,000 degree

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From page A6 | February 08, 2013 | Leave Comment

Governors in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin are working to get their college systems to offer baccalaureate degrees for $10,000.

Here’s how Texas is doing it, according to a Fox News story by Joshua Rhett Miller: “The $10,000 degree also may not be available to everyone. Under one model being implemented in Texas, only high school students who graduate with at least a 2.5 grade-point average and complete at least 30 hours of college credit are eligible. They then spend a year at Southwest Texas Junior College before completing their degrees at Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College, where they must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average and take 15 hours of classes per semester. If those criteria are met, students can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or mathematics.”

A $10,000 college degree is a valuable goal. States that can achieve that will be the ones that generate jobs by making college affordable without sending off graduates loaded with debt. Students and their parents could meet that price. It is less than the price of a new economy car.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown is campaigning to halt the rise in tuition by the UC and state college system, plugging for online classes and teaming up with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has a software for making online classes available for large audiences.

The pilot program, if successful, could eventually be expanded statewide, officials said. It is unique because of the low price — $150 a course — and because it makes courses available to students who are not enrolled at the university.

San Jose State will be offering three online courses at $150 each through a deal with Palo Alto-based Udacity Inc., founded by Sebastian Thrun.

“We’re talking about our society, our future and how we can all improve our skills, how we can exercise our imagination, and we can come to understand this great learning environment called California,” Brown said. “We’re about inquiry. We’re about knowledge, and we’re about reflection and wisdom. Technology helps that.”

Folsom Lake College already offers online courses in such subjects as Excel, Word, database management, bookkeeping programs and keyboarding.

Like the Texas plan, community colleges are key to making the $10,000 degree a reality. It can be done here in a high-cost state like California also. In fact, it is pretty simple. There is no reason community college teachers can’t be teaching upper division courses. At universities professors have their graduate students teach or grade those courses anyway. Community colleges now title their instructors “assistant professors” and their part-time instructors “adjunct professors.” And why not? The majority of the assistant and adjunct professors have master’s degrees and some have doctorates. They are not burdened with publishing in obscure academic journals. Their sole job is teaching excellence and staying current in their field.

A really top quality program would be a combo campus where state college professors, community college assistant professors and adjunct professors tackle a full slate of upper-division-only courses and key majors such as business, accounting, history, math, chemistry, English, biology, computer information science and art.

They could start right here in El Dorado County. There is a lot of office space available in Town Center. There is 150 acres off Latrobe Road where a campus could be built. The combo plan could easily offer a degree for less than $10,000.

Mountain Democrat

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