Last week, Gov. Rick Scott challenged all Florida state community colleges to come up with a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. While it is too little too late for the majority of those reading this, we believe this is a monumental first step in creating affordable higher education. Before we break out the champagne and confetti, let us not forget that this is only one step in the thousand-mile journey.
How this will actually happen is the million-dollar question. Our optimism toward this discount bachelor’s degree is served with a side of skepticism. This is a great initiative that will motivate more people to attend college and earn degrees, assuming there will be jobs available for these people. However, a college can barely keep the lights on with students only paying $10,000 in tuition each year.
This also brings us to the question of quality over quantity. How will colleges accommodate this influx of students who can now afford a higher-level education?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of attending a public four-year institution was around $20,100 the last school year. The average cost for a two-year institution was around $12,400. In case you have not noticed, both of these numbers are above $10,000.
Community colleges will have to drastically restructure their curriculum. With students receiving a discount education, they simply will not be able to receive the full menu of options that students who pay full price will. This could potentially create a problem in the validity of their degrees. Will this education deem these graduates “unhirable?” Would this increase the unemployment problem for college graduates?
The current unemployment rate for college graduates is 9.4 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This is almost 2 percentage points higher than the national average.
While we commend Scott on his call to action in combating this issue, there are too many holes in the metaphorical cheese. If community colleges can see this plan to fruition, it will definitely be one for the books.