The $10K Degree – If I Were King

This is the tenth post in the series of twelve. In this and the next two posts, I’ll put together my thoughts for how a $10K degree institution could work. All posts are categorized as $10K Degree.

As I’ve been looking at this issue of the $10K degree, several things have risen to the top for me. So, if I were king and could create a new institution for learning, these would be some of my points of light. In no particular order:

  • There’s nothing magical about $10,000 as a goal. What we’re really talking about here are affordable baccalaureates that don’t saddle students with mountains of debt, and which will hopefully position them to be employable in their chosen fields and/or well prepared for further schooling.
  • There are already some traditional opportunities (in other words, schools that approach education in the old-school way) where the price of a four year degree is pretty close to the $10K mark in the first place. See the last post for more info. This new venture would not resemble those traditional opportunities – which is a good thing, in my opinion.
  • I believe that we are talking about students who were not the high achievers in high 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 community college environment – and now we’re looking at how to give them a more advanced degree in that same sort of environment. All students will be welcomed, but the target audience will be those who cannot get into a top-tier school, or who just don’t want to.
  • The $10K University (abbreviated 10KU going forward) won’t get involved in very much cutting-edge research. They may get involved in a fair amount of applied research in areas where the students will be studying – in fact most of the research would be done by the students with a guiding hand from the faculty. (More on academic research in post 8.) 10KU won’t be an R1 university. It won’t pretend to be an R1, and it won’t want to be an R1. It will be an S1 institution of higher learning – where S1 stands for Students First!
  • 10KU will use technology to enhance learning, but it will not be an online-only university or rely heavily on fully online courses. There’s plenty of those options out there already.
  • 10KU will seek to partner heavily with local secondary schools. Even for the average high school students (not the high-achievers, remember?) it can be possible to create a better dovetail between the last two years of high school and the first two years of college. 10KU will help high schools graduate better educated citizens while also helping assure a solid pathway for those students to college degrees and potentially multiple different careers.
  • Speaking of multiple careers, 10KU will have a heavy emphasis on lifelong learning. 10KU grads will have several learning strategies in their pocket that will enable them to stay on top of their career fields as well as shift into other career paths as needed or desired. Or, to just learn for the sheer joy of learning.
  • No one will graduate from 10KU without having demonstrated a good grasp of the all-important “soft skills.” Much of the learning at 10KU will be centered around the following types of skills:
    • communications of many different varieties
    • critical thinking
    • interpersonal skills
    • problem-solving
    • leadership abilities
    • etiquette and netiquette
    • networking and social networking
    • conflict resolution
    • self-motivation and self-discipline
    • personal finance and money management
    • people skills, including customer service
  • No one will graduate from 10KU without a basic grounding in small business skills and/or entrepreneurship. Most if not all of the programs offered are naturals for graduates to run their own businesses and be their own boss. Even if they go to work for the man, most of this knowledge base is still incredibly useful to anyone as they go through life.
  • 10KU will be competency-based. The length of time that it takes someone to complete will not be measured by weeks on the calendar, but by the achievement and demonstration of the expected competencies. The term “4-year degree” will not be used as it will only confuse. No credit hours, no semesters or quarters – you proceed at your pace as you gather evidence of having achieved the competencies.
  • The amount of service learning and active learning will be extremely high. In fact, 10KU will be all about service to the community and involving everyone on the learning experience.
  • 10KU will be a significant departure from almost all of the colleges and universities that I am familiar with. Therefore, we will need to build a whole new ship (see post #4). It might be possible to retrofit a current institution, but I’m afraid that the existing facilities would not be very conducive to the 10KU style of learning, to say nothing of the existing mindset.
  • 10KU will rely exclusively on Open Educational Resources and other types of freely available learning materials – when such learning materials are actually needed. When students pay their tuition they are paying for everything. No surprise add-ons at the college bookstore – no parking fees – no technology fees (this is 2011, just look at a calendar) – not anything that faintly resembles the “we found a new revenue stream and now we’re going to milk it!” mentality.
  • 10KU will have a tuition guarantee. When you enroll at 10KU your tuition rate (per competency or per bundle of competencies) will be a known figure going forward. Whether it takes you two years, four years, or six years to master your learning competencies – you’ll know what you need to pay. Prices might go up for the next incoming batch of students, but they won’t go up for you after you’ve started.
  • Most of the employees at 10KU will be instructional staff. Some employees may very well have split duties – some of which is instructional and some non-instructional. Everyone at 10KU will be responsible for helping students achieve their goals, and every employee will know that this is an expected part of their jobs.
  • Faculty members are expected to lead students through the learning process so that the students gain the required competencies. Other employees will be responsible for assessing student progress in reaching these goals. Faculty members have an inherent conflict of interest in evaluating their own students. Independent assessment professionals will determine when students are ready to move on.
  • Intramural sports? Sure, why not, if inexpensive facilities are available. Intercollegiate sports? Nope. (see post #7 for more) If you really need a football team to cheer for, you can go to KU rather than 10KU. (Go Devils!! Fork ‘Em!!)

In the next post I’ll give you some real examples of what pieces of 10KU might look like. In the final post, I’ll try to tie it together with a snapshot of what 10KU would really look like.

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2 Responses

  1. OK Barry, I am willing to support you as Chancellor of 10KU! King is a little too much on the dictatorial side and I know that’s not your preferred leadership style. I’m in. Where do I deposit my investment check?

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