10k Degrees of Education

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Illustrated By: Matthew Martin

According to CNN, the average debt for 2012 college graduates was approximately $27,000. In November, Governor Rick Scott posed a question: What if a student could graduate with a degree that costs less than the average debt? On Jan. 28, Scott announced that all of the colleges in the Florida College System offering baccalaureate degrees accepted this challenge to develop bachelor’s degree programs that cost no more than $10,000.

“Higher education is key to helping our students succeed in the 21st century economy and to grow jobs in Florida,” Scott said in a news release. “It is important our students can get an affordable education, and our state colleges have stepped up to the challenge to find innovative ways to provide quality education at a great value. Our goal should be that students do not have to go into debt in order to obtain a degree.”

Although all of the colleges have accepted the challenge, not everyone is in support of Scott’s education plan. According to the Department of Education’s 2012 annual report for the Florida College System, a four-year degree would cost about $13,300, or $3,300 above Scott’s goal. The Florida Democratic Party criticized his proposal, noting Scott supported a $300 million spending cut for state universities this year and reductions in merit-based Bright Futures scholarships, said Bill Kaczor of the Associated Press in his article.

Along with the Florida Democratic Party, vice chairman of the State Board of Education also criticized the plan, according to State Impact of NPR. Roberto Martinez wrote in a letter to Scott that the policy is “not serious.”

“It will be perceived as a gimmick pretending to be a policy used as a sound bite, and merely copying the plan announced last year by Governor Perry of Texas,” Martinez said. “The cost of a Bachelor’s Degree 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.”

Some students at Jacksonville University also struggle with Scott’s proposal.

“You’re looking at a girl who paid $160,000 out of pocket,” Jennah Knight, JU Master of Education student, said. “I think it would be wonderful if they could pull it off, but in order for it to be affordable for ‘everyone,’ they’re going to have to make a lot of cuts, and I’m just concerned with where those cuts are going to happen. Because the first thing people cut is education. What are they going to do? He’s either going to have to increase taxes or cut teacher’s salary in order to pay us. You’re going to help college students but you’re not helping your k-12 schools by giving them any money? How are they going to be college-bound?”

Still, many workers in the education system support Scott’s plan and look forward to working with him in this challenge.

“College affordability is a key ingredient in providing opportunities for Floridians to move into their careers,” Chancellor of the Florida College System Randy Hanna said in the release. “All of these programs will be designed for bachelor degrees in the area of workforce development. Many of our colleges are targeting high demand programs where there can be significant impact in the local community. We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature and business and industry as we develop these programs.”

Some colleges have already begun to develop $10,000 degree programs. Santa Fe College has commenced work on a $10,000 law enforcement degree program. The college wants to make sure that even though the degree is $10,000, it still holds the same quality as a $13,000 degree.

“Our colleges are recognized as the best, not just because of their access and affordability, but also because of their productivity, the quality of their instruction, and the value of their education,” Martinez said.

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