USA Today/December 2, 2012
By Daniel J. Hurley
Best way to keep college costs affordable is for states to invest more.
OUR VIEW: $10k college degrees are on to something
One proposal espoused by Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida is the creation of a $10,000 four-year bachelor's degree. Of all the solutions for strengthening college access and student success, this one falls exceptionally short.
The fact is the $10,000 degree is already being achieved in many states. When factoring in all sources of federal grant aid and tax credits, and state and institutional aid, full-time undergraduate students paid an average net annual tuition price of just over $2,910 in 2012, according to College Board data. In Florida, for example, the average net tuition price of a 120-credit bachelor's degree at any of the state's universities is already under the $10,000 mark.
The best way to keep college affordable is for states to adequately invest in their public colleges. Yet, states have cut hundreds of millions in funding in recent years, transferring the cost burden to students and families. Florida topped the list this year in cuts to its universities and has reduced funding at a rate four times the national average over the past five years.
Nationally, public colleges have cut costs and kept per-student spending flat, all the while enrolling thousands more students. They have also had to increase tuition prices, but the revenues derived from these increases have fallen far short of making up for dramatic state disinvestment.
America's public universities must continue to spur innovation in instructional delivery to drive costs down and student learning outcomes up in order to produce the most important outcome: graduates who are fully equipped with the skills, knowledge and capacity to contribute to our nation's economy and democracy.
Students deserve, parents demand and employers require a quality public higher education. Putting an artificially set retail price tag of $10,000 on a bachelor's degree seems like a populist gimmick that diverts attention from more serious solutions for ensuring access to an affordable public college education.
A recommitment by states to hold up their end of the higher education funding compact would be a good start.
Daniel J. Hurley is director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.