With only half of recent U.S. college graduates in full-time jobs and student loans now at $1 trillion, the question of the century is: Is a higher education really worth it?
There has also been a downward trend in state subsidies of college education, according to a PowerPoint presentation made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on November 14.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is doing something about it, but his opponents think it's just a gimmick.
Scott has "challenged" state colleges to create $10,000 four-year degrees, a continuation of his low-cost strategy for higher education.
Democrats have slammed the "Governor's $10,000 Degree Challenge" as an attempt to turn the schools into "the Walmart of Education."
In a blog response to Scott's announcement, Democrats claimed that Republican governors and a Republican-dominated Legislature have repeatedly cut funding to higher education. This is an attempt to make amends for the cuts.
According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, Scott issued his challenge in a media blitz and a morning press conference at St. Petersburg College on Nov. 26.
"You should be able to work and go to school and not end up with debt," Scott told WFLA TV, according to a transcript provided by his office. "If these degrees cost so much money, tuition is so high, that's not going to happen. I have put out this challenge to our state colleges -- we have 28 great state colleges -- and say, 'Can you come up with degrees where individuals can get jobs that the total degree costs $10,000?'"
The program will offer a savings of about $3,000 in college tuition. It is
also less than half of what it would cost to attend a university in Florida.
William D. Law Jr., president of St. Petersburg College, and Brad Jenkins, associate dean of engineering technology and building arts at SPC, joined Gov. Rick Scott in announcing the program at SPC. It is the first Florida college to accept the challenge.
"St. Petersburg College is once again excited about the opportunity to be part of a statewide college pilot program that lowers the cost of a college education for the citizens we serve," Law said in a press release. "Affordable education always has been at the forefront of the college's mission."
Daytona State College has also taken up Scott's challenge, proposing an accelerated "Fast-Track Baccalaureate Program" that offers high school students a three-year path through any of the college's bachelor's degrees for $10,000.
SPC and Daytona State are two of seven state colleges that
have already accepted the challenge and identified programs, according to the
Florida College System. The others are Broward College, College of Central
Florida, Santa Fe College, Seminole State College of Florida and Valencia
Broward College Provost Linda
Howdyshell said the school is looking into offering $10,000 degrees in three
areas: information technology, supervision and management, and transportation
These state colleges are generally what used to be known as community colleges, though many of them now offer four-year degrees.
The $10,000-degree challenge is similar to one launched by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his state. It also comes as Scott has made containing the costs of higher education a top priority after colleges and universities say years of budget cuts have forced tuition hikes.
Notwithstanding, Scott has not committed any extra state funding to aid colleges in offering a $10,000 degree.