Education board discusses governor’s proposal for cheaper degree

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Educators scoffed when Gov. Rick Perry proposed a $10,000 bachelor’s degree in February, but the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is taking steps to make his idea a reality.

The board met Wednesday for the first in a series of discussions on how to create and implement such a plan. Perry said he hopes that up to 10 percent of Texas university students would graduate under the model if it succeeds.

The proposed degree will incorporate online classes and resources, require use of low-cost textbooks and extend credit for relevant internships, work experience and previous knowledge shown with placement tests to dramatically reduce the cost of education.

Van Davis, special projects director for the coordinating board, said in order for the plan to work, it has to be rigorous, targeted, highly structured, competency-based and leverage technology, and it must include multiple pathways and have extensive faculty support.

“We want to create more options for students that keep up the quality that already exists at our institutions,” Davis said. “This is not going to be the degree for every student, but we want to expand their options.”

Governor’s adviser David Young said the $10,000 degree plan is the step Texas needs to make following Closing the Gaps, a higher education plan adopted in 2000 to strengthen student participation, success, excellence and research.

“By 2010, [Texas universities] increased enrollment by 122,000 students,” Young said. “How do we pay for the expansion? Now we have a new challenge.”

At a press conference Wednesday, the board’s commissioner Raymund Paredes said the board will use online schools, such as DeVry University, as models.

Paredes said the plan also needs to incorporate paid internships for academic credit and allow students to apply previous work and experience to course credit.

“This is relevant if you are trying to get a baccalaureate in nursing, and you’ve been a medic in Afghanistan,” Paredes said. “You should be able to receive a lot of credit from that.”

Paredes said the board will work on getting a structured plan together before the next state legislative session begins in 2013.

Deputy Commissioner David Gardner said he was surprised the governor’s proposal during his February State of the State Address was met with skepticism.

Associate communication professor Joshua Gunn said that he supports the plan in concept, but he doesn’t believe it will succeed.

“I think it’s absurd,” Gunn said. “Part of his plan to give people an education with $10,000 requires capping the price of textbooks, but the textbook market is one that professors cannot control.”

Government professor Bryan Jones said in order for the extensive incorporation of online coursework to succeed, professors will have to interact with students either online or in person.