The $10K Degree – is it for Marginal Students?

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

One of the questions that I posed at the SREB meetings is “who is this degree opportunity intended for?” It is my contention that the $10K degree will not be appealing to those top students who are able to enroll at top universities and can afford to pay full price or who have enough financial aid available to them that they can actually afford to attend these schools.

  • Tuition/fees/books to attend Harvard = $37K * 4 yrs. = $148,000
  • Tuition/fees/books to attend U of Chicago = $38.5K * 4 yrs. = $154,000
  • Tuition/fees/books to attend UCLA = $15K * 4 yrs. = $60,000


  •   Tuition/fees/books to attend Rick Perry University = $2.5K * 4 yrs. = $10,000

Let’s assume that students who get accepted into Harvard, Chicago, and UCLA can also get accepted in the Rick Perry University (RPU). Now they have a choice to make. I’m guessing that 99.9% of those who get accepted to the first three schools are going to try everything they can think of to pay the price of attendance.

C student report cardIn other words, I don’t believe that RPU will be an attractive alternative to the high-achieving students. I’m also not saying that it should be an attractive alternative. This is not a value judgment; I’m just trying to be realistic.

The point I’m trying to make is that we have to plan RPU to properly serve the students who are going to be attracted to it. In my opinion, those are the C students and below (from high school) or those returning students with very low self-confidence about their ability to succeed in a rigorous academic program (this is directly related to the perception issue of the $10K degree schools, I’m not saying that they wouldn’t be rigorous). Of course I could be wrong, but humor me for a bit.

Many of the proposals at the SREB meetings had to do with alternative means of earning credits:

  • Dual enrollment credits or “College in the Schools” (CiiS)
  • Credit for prior learning (CPL)
  • Credit by exam  (CBE)

The idea was for most of the students to earn these alternative forms of credits, which are cheaper than full seat-time classes and speed up the time to completion of the degree.

Here’s the problem.  Average or below average students typically are unable to legitimately earn credits by those means. CiiS is usually** only available to high-achieving students. It stands to reason that high school students who are not able to read and write at the college level are not ready to take college level courses while still in high school. There are plenty of examples where high school students have completed an AA or AS degree while still in high school, but those are high achieving students for whom high school is largely a waste of their academic talents. Getting two years of college out of the way (with no tuition charges) certainly makes it easier to reach the $10K price target – but it’s just not realistic for average and below average achievers.

CPL?  Credit for prior learning is relevant to those non-traditional students who have some life and work experiences that might be worthy of being transcripted. However, most colleges already have these mechanisms in place and they rarely, if ever, are able to serve the new, first-time, college entrants. These people don’t have any experience that will earn them CPL. Seems to me that this is much ado about nothing.

CBE?  See the argument about the validity of CiiS above. Same thing here. Average and below average high school students are not going to fair well in trying test out of college credits. Above average students aren’t going to be interested in RPU – so this isn’t part of a viable solution either.

So, if we’re not talking about high achieving students being attracted to the RPU’s of the world, just what are talking about? Sounds to me like we’re talking about something similar to applied bachelor’s degrees in technical fields – and if so, do we really need that?

** NOTE: when I made this statement at one of the SREB tables (about CiiS only being for high-achieving students), I was quickly informed that in North Carolina they do offer CiiS to low performing students – in fact, they said that there had been some sort of legislation passed requiring them to do so. This is an interesting concept that I want to look into more deeply, but it strikes me on the surface as being aimed at those H.S. students who may be on track for entering a 2-yr technical college program. Many of the AAS degree programs still require college level reading and writing, but not all do. I’ll maintain my opinion for now that CiiS is “almost entirely” aimed at high achieving students. And RPU will not be attractive to those same students.

One Response

  1. […] school or other educational endeavors. High-achievers will be going elsewhere because they can (more in post 6 of the series). Therefore, I really do think we are talking about students who would typically be drawn to a […]

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