Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Raymund Paredes: $10,000 Degrees "Entirely Feasible"

by Reeve Hamilton | Texas Tribune
April 27, 2011

At a board meeting of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Wednesday, Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said that $10,000 bachelor's degrees — books included — as proposed by Gov. Rick Perry are "entirely feasible."

He hopes to have concrete proposals and coursework in place to meet the challenge before the start of the next legislative session in 2013.

A repeated theme in the board's discussion about the governor's cost-cutting proposal was that they were not seeking to replace existing degrees or artificially push the costs of those down, but were rather seeking to provide alternative options for low-income students. "We're not talking about every field," Paredes said. "We're not talking about every baccalaureate degree. We're not talking about every student."

Van Davis, special projects coordinator for the coordinating board said that all low-cost degree programs would have to share certain characteristics. They would have to be rigorous, highly structured, allow for advancement based on proven competency levels, leverage technology, and have buy-in from faculty members. "Low cost does not equate to low rigor or even low value," Davis said.

A key to reaching the goal will be leveraging existing resources, such as online degree programs and open source textbooks. "Our institutions are already doing so many pieces of this," Davis said, noting that it was largely a matter of putting those pieces together in the right way.

Deputy Commissioner David Gardner said that communication between the coordinating board and institutions of higher education on developing the low-cost degrees was still in its nascent stages.

Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels said that one of the biggest challenges would be skepticism from others. HAs soon as Perry announced the challenge in his State of the State adress, Heldenfels said he heard at least one university system head and two state representatives question the plausibility of a $10,000 degree.

Perry advisor David Young told the board to remember that reaching $10,000 is a challenge, as opposed to a directive. "If we don't hit $10,000 right on the mark, at least we can make some progress," he said.

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