12:26pm December 11, 2012

Is a $10,000 College Degree Possible?

Group of young graduates standing together outdoors smiling

Unnecessary political intervention is one sure way to diminish a university’s educational mission. Many governors are not aware of this though. While Texas Governor Rick Perry failed in his run for the presidency, he is succeeding in spreading his ideas of higher education reform across the country.

Perry’s $10,000 college degree plan is now taking root in Florida where fellow Republican Rick Scott parrots the Perry plan by pushing colleges to lower costs.  USA Today supports the plan, but plenty of educators are “stumped” by the proposal, some even going so far as to start an online petition against the Scott Plan.

Due to skyrocketing tuition rate increases, average student loan debt of $26,000 and total student debt exceeds $1 trillion; it is no surprise that politicians are competing to develop plans to keep costs low.

Even though it has been Republican legislators leading the charge to cut higher education budgets, forcing schools to increase tuition, the demand for a college education is not going away. This is because of the overwhelming evidence of the value a college degree provides to the degree holder and society at large.

Somewhat hypocritical is how Republican policymakers attack the problem of escalating tuition costs.

Republican orthodoxy should say let the marketplace decide. Republicans want to arbitrarily assign price controls instead of letting colleges compete just against each other – as they are already doing. Schools with lower tuition will attract cost-conscious students, while institutions providing an inadequate value for will suffer.

It is shocking that Republicans are rushing to regulate higher education instead of letting the market play out. It almost makes you think that Republicans are waging a surreptitious battle against colleges and universities because they simply do not see colleges as sufficiently conservative.

Politician’s change the funding rules in the middle of the game (by diminished infrastructure funding for state-owned buildings politicians effectively handcuff universities) and expect universities to immediately be able to pivot is unrealistic. And, colleges should try to lower costs, but an arbitrary $10,000 price tag being forced on universities by politicians is a surefire way to diminish educational value.

Do they really believe a college education is worth the cost of a used car?

Another favored tact of conservative politicians is holding universities responsible if students cannot land jobs as soon as they graduate. Holding universities to jobs gained by students after graduation requires universities to be seers of where the economy is headed four or five years in advance. Even Ben Bernanke cannot do that.

The best way to help higher education is to broaden the tax base so that tuition does not have to dramatically increase. That way more students can attend school and individuals and society collectively benefit.

About the Author

Marvin King
Marvin King
Marvin King received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of North Texas and his B.A. from the University of Texas. Now, he is an Associate Professor of Political Science with a joint appointment in the African American Studies Program at the University of Mississippi. He conducts research into how political institutions affect African American politics. Marvin is available for public speaking engagements and you can follow him on Twitter @kingpolitics



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One Comment

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