The high cost of college loans and the aftermath of debt, not in Texas or Florida - image madamenoire.com
The first State in the Union to push for lower cost college degrees was Texas – Governor Rick Perry called on the State University Systems to come up with a $10,000 total cost Bachelor Degree program to take effect in 2013. This program has started to take hold. The Texas Tribune reports that the “Texas State University System is the state's third major university system to announce the development of a bachelor's degree that only costs $10,000 - a response to Gov. Rick Perry's 2011 call for more affordable higher education offerings.”. The program in Texas is geared towards limiting a student’s debt, while offering courses that have realistic job prospects, especially in today’s economy. As of Dec. 1, 2012, ten Texas State Universities have come up with models that work within the Governor’s plan according to the Desert News. There has been criticism from Democrats, who feel that the programs continue to cost the same, regardless of the lower tuition, and the State will have to pay the difference and also complained that under Governor Rick Perry - the cost of tuition increased over a 10 year period by $12,000, which allegedly puts college out of reach for low to middle income students. However, despite the naysayers the Universities are implementing these degree programs. Additionally, Perry also called for heightened transparency from Universities as to the value of the education – An article by The National Association of Scholars is well worth the read. On transparency:
Transparency in two areas will bolster the cause of reform. First, the public has a right and a duty to learn what and how much students learn while enrolled in our public colleges and universities. Second, the public likewise deserves to know what the employment prospects are for the plethora of degrees universities offer today. The paramount need to measure and publicize student-learning outcomes became painfully clear last year with the publication of Academically Adrift (University of Chicago Press). Adrift reports that 45 percent of the students in its national survey demonstrate little to no increase in general collegiate skills -- critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills -- after two years of college. After four full years in college, 36 percent continue to demonstrate no significant increase in learning, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA).
The question is why aren’t more state’s following Rick Perry’s plan and challenge to their colleges?
Florida did. Governor Rick Scott has called for the same $10,000 4 year degree program (this includes books, fees, etc.) The New York Times weighted in on December 9th :
Rick Scott, businessman turned politician, campaigned for governor in 2010 with promises to run Florida like a successful business — more efficiency, lower costs, less hand-wringing and measurable results.The Florida plan, based on the Texas plan, is getting heat due to the costs remaining the same for programs such as specialized humanities degrees: “The professors said the move would inevitably reduce the number of students who take humanities classes, which would further diminish financing for those departments. In the end, Florida universities with nationally prominent programs, like the one for Latin American history at the University of Florida, will lose coveted professors and their overall luster.”(New York Times)
He meant higher education, too, but until recently that meant mostly shrinking budgets.
Now, looking for more value on the remaining dollars, Governor Scott and Republican lawmakers are prodding Florida’s 12 state universities to find ways to steer students toward majors that are in demand in the job market.
The message from Tallahassee could not be blunter: Give us engineers, scientists, health care specialists and technology experts. Do not worry so much about historians, philosophers, anthropologists and English majors.
To nudge students toward job-friendly degrees, the governor’s task force on higher education suggested recently that university tuition rates be frozen for three years for majors in “strategic areas,” which would vary depending on supply and demand. An undergraduate student would pay less for a degree in engineering or biotechnology — whose classes are among the most expensive for universities — than for a degree in history or psychology. State financing, which has dropped drastically in the past five years, would be expected to make up the tuition gap.
Humanities programs, specifically History, are important, however, the costs associated with these types of degrees, which, to be fair offered a student the skills of critical thinking, but a prospect of perhaps a job as a teacher or college professor with even more costly advanced degree programs was necessary as the job market shrank and even the prospect of affording (realistically) a Master’s degree without incurring huge debt, did not guarantee a position in education.
How is it that Florida and Texas have come up with programs and the balance of the State’s have not? Why is the cost of a college education at State Universities (which are funded by taxpayer’s) sometimes more expensive than a private four year college? Take the Massachusetts System.
At the University of Massachusetts the tuition and fees per year for in-state residents, as of the 2012-2013 academic year: $23,167 – not including other fees or textbooks. That puts a four year degree program at a cost of $96,000. Graduate fees are higher, a 3 credit course for instate students is at a cost of $2,131.00 which includes: the Tuition, the Curriculum Fee, a Service Fee, a Graduate Senate Tax, and at 5 credits or more, a Mandatory Health Fee. This does not include books, room and board, dining fees, and other fees found on the schedule. (University of Massachusetts). A 30 credit Masters degree in History (Humanities), therefore, may include a debt for tuition only of $22,000, again, with no prospect of employment. *( University of Massachusetts).
The costs of salaries and pensions may have a bit to do with higher education in the Bay State and elsewhere according to an article in the Springfield Republican (published in 2011). In 2008, the faculty at UMass was upset over salaries that ranged to $72,000 for Assistant Professors. The problem, Assistant Professors at Rutgers were making more per annual. This does not include the unionized professor’s pensions, and other compensation. As one can imagine these salaries have increased since 2008, along with the costs of in-state tuition and other tuition categories.
Texas is right to work state, which may have something to do with their ability to offer a lower cost degree program.
There are “deals” to be had in the Bay State, specifically the programs offered a 2 year community colleges, with an ability to transfer to a 4 year college, lowering the overall costs to students (and the sum total of their loans.) However, keep in mind, a $20,000 loan over the cost of repayment can often double. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the $10,000 Bachelors Degree program under both Governor’s Perry and Scott evolve. If they could add in humanities (History Major who is a big believer in these programs.), at some point, it would be a perfect system – if, and this is a big if, there were sufficient jobs to cover the costs to the students. For all the bluff and bluster about lowering tuition costs from some Democrat politicians (most noticeably in Massachusetts Senator Elect Warren), it is the Republican Governors of the States of Texas and Florida who actually accomplished this task.