Dear Commons Community,
In the NY Times “Room for Debate” a discussion has started on Republican Rick Perry’s challenge to the Texas university system to design a bachelor’s degree program that costs no more than $10,000. or $2,500. per year. This might seem like pie in the sky but he is not the first person to propose a bargain basement college degree. Bill Gates predicts that within five years, top-notch online degrees will be available for $2,000.
The lead discussant, Anthony P. Carnevale, a research professor and the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, makes the point that such a system will lead to tracking:
“putting affluent students on a track for America’s elite schools, and poorer students on a track for his less desirable “discount” institutions. In fairness, though, the nation already has such a system. Today, America’s selective four-year colleges educate half the students, who are increasingly affluent and white; two-year colleges and the least-selective four-year schools educate the less fortunate, other half — who are increasingly working class, Hispanic and African American. Elite four-year colleges enroll only 4 percent of students from low-income families, 6 percent of Hispanics, and 5 percent of African Americans.”
Perry’s proposal may seem crazy to some but up until 1975, a B.A. degree at CUNY was essentially free to students but only made possible by subsidies from New York City. Given the financial conditions of the states and localities, it is not likely that significant new subsidies will be coming for higher education anytime soon. To the contrary, most public higher education systems are hoping to keep the state funding they already are receiving.