The $10K Degree – Who Wants It?

This is the third post in a series of undetermined length. All posts are categorized as $10K Degree.

Before you can dive too deeply into the pool of discussion around the $10,000 baccalaureate degree, I think you need to clarify several things about the proposed degrees.

  • Are we talking about all degrees for all people? Doubtful.
  • Are we talking about bachelor’s degrees in only certain fields, and if so, who determines which fields would be appropriate?
  • How important is perception? Will these degrees be seen as the Walmart of Education? If so, what types of students will be drawn to such degrees and why?

Regarding perception: there is already a huge gap in the perceived quality of college degrees in the US (and probably beyond the borders). I believe that the quality of the education received at Princeton is not substantially better than the quality received at Arizona State University – but there is a HUGE perception difference in those two degrees for most people. If that’s already true – how low on the perception meter will the branded “$10K degree” be ranked? The absolute bottom of the list, I’m pretty sure.

Consider this scenario. The current cost sticker price for one year in the Business Program at the University of Pittsburgh for tuition, fees, and books is approximately $18,000 (2011-12 tuition of $17,058, plus estimate of fees and books). Therefore, the 4-yr degree costs $72K if you complete it in four years. FWIW, the USN&WR ranks Pitt in the top 20 for public institutions.

What if Pitt added a new business program to their existing mix. Let’s say that they add a degree in e-Commerce, which is a field that they don’t currently offer. Let’s assume that it will not have a significant impact on all the other degree offerings at the university. In a magnanimous gesture, Pitt agrees to start this new program where the tuition/fees/books will cost the student $2,500 per year thus being their first (and only) $10,000 degree. Furthermore, assume that degrees in e-commerce are in demand and that graduates have very good job prospects (and entrepreneurial prospects) for the foreseeable future.

If viewed as lesser, why? It’s still Pitt, right? Or is it? To really have the Pitt experience, do you need to pay $72,000?

If a highly ranked, public institution is going to have perception issues with such a degree, how much worse will it be for graduates of a $10K degree program from schools that are not highly ranked and may already have “less-than” reputations?

I would love to hear your comments about the possible perception problem with the $10K degrees.

(CC Flickr photo By Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)