Is a $10,000 college degree a real possibility?
Politicians love using affordable education as a talking point during the election, but they rarely put a price tag on what such an education should actually cost.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has: The man who is attempting to capture the Republican nomination for president has challenged colleges in Texas to create a program where undergrads could achieve a B.A. in four years for $10,000 or less. One of the best public universities in the education system, the University of Texas, currently charges around $8,000 per year for in-state tuition.
Educators from across the country are debating whether or not such a program can be done at this price point in the opinion pages of The New York Times, and the consensus is, well, there is no consensus.
Gaye Tuchman, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, writes that a watered down education is not something we want, and the best way to provide a solid education for Americans is to subsidize it. Anthony P. Carnevale, a research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, writes that simply making a $10,000 degree is not enough — students need to be able to take that degree and get real jobs, whether its nursing, teaching, or accounting. Richard Vedder, the director of the Center for College Affordability, writes that a $10,000 plan is only feasible with big subsidies provided by states, and an overhaul of how universities allocate its resources.
What's unfortunate is that although there is a consensus that a college education should be much more affordable, nobody has a clear idea of how to make such a thing remotely possible. Saying that we need to put a priority on education and subsidizing it to make it more affordable is a good idea in theory — and then you remember how much trouble state governments have had recently while trying to balance their budgets. Asking colleges to overhaul their resource allocations is equally unhelpful.
Before we start throwing out ideas on how to make college more affordable, we need to figure out why college costs have gotten out of control in the first place. I'm in my late twenties, and when I went to college a decade ago at the University of California, Irvine, tuition was a little over $4,000 a year, compared to the $13,970 it is today — a 244 percent increase. And I only graduated a little over 6 years ago! Nobody seems to know why the cost of college rises so quickly — they only appear to have theories.
First things first. Figure out why colleges are required to raise their tuition prices so dramatically every year, and then we can put our dollars at work to make it more affordable.
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