Higher Ed
12:30 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Why Rick Scott's $10k Challenge For Colleges Might Be A Gamble

Scott is challenging colleges to find a bachelor's degree program that costs $10,000 or less.
Credit JaxStrong /Flickr

Gov. Rick Scott issued a challenge to colleges all over the state asking them to find a way to offer a bachelor's degree program that costs no more than $10,000 for all four years.

This initiative is part of Scott's effort to lower the cost of higher education for Floridians, as well as tackle of the issue of crippling student debt among recent graduates.

This is also one in a series of measures aimed at getting schools to offer affordable higher education. In 2011, the Legislature passed a law that gives community colleges in Florida the ability to offer bachelor's degrees, a press release announcing Scott's challenge says.

According to the Tampa Tribune, there are other forces at play here keeping the cost of education high in Florida.

Universities, through several years of budget cuts, have used tuition hikes to make up the difference. State lawmakers this past year cut funding by $300 million. University presidents who gathered at the Board of Governors meeting bemoaned the cuts, saying it was hurting efforts to repair labs or keep professors from leaving the state.

Florida's tuition and fees average $6,140 a year for undergraduate residents, below the national average.

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The governor doesn't have complete say over how much universities charge. This past year, state legislators structured the state budget in such a way that universities were able to raise tuition without Scott being able to use his veto pen to block it.

But those tuition hikes were ultimately approved by the Board of Governors.

Scott's challenge follows an almost identical plan that Texas Gov.  Rick Perry has been unsuccessfully pushing for in his state.

Many experts consider Perry's plan an innovation but critics are also concerned the plan will not solve the real issues at hand.

According to the National Journal,

Critics doubt that the initiative will help institutions trim their own costs in providing an education, however. Experts worry that reaching the $10,000 goal involves a scholarship process for students and not real savings for the schools themselves in overhead and instruction.

“I question an artificially set benchmark of $10,000,” said Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, adding that the discussion of actually containing the costs of education for the institution is “often missing” from such initiatives.

Indeed, officials acknowledge that most of these programs would only reduce the price tag for the student, not the cost to the institution of providing the degree. While select students might pay less overall, institutions must deliver the same faculty, facilities, time, and knowledge they provide to students paying full price for their degrees.

Scott announced the challenge at the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg College before college and community leaders and elected officials on Monday.