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Scott gets all of Florida’s four-year colleges to embrace $10K challenge

by John Kennedy | January 28th, 2013

After catching heat from even a member of the state’s Board of Education, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that all 23 of Florida’s colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees have embraced his call for making available a $10,000 degree program.

Scott has been pushing to make higher education more affordable, ridiculing Florida’s universities for moving forward with tuition increases. The state college system, however, has ben more willing to follow Scott’s lead — and the governor Monday went to Miami Dade College’s north campus to announce a clean sweep of the four-year degree schools.

“Our goal should be that students do not have to go into debt in order to obtain a degree,” Scott said.

The cut-rate programs, like the four-year degrees at colleges, will be limited. Palm Beach State’s four-year degrees, are currently available only in business supervision and management, information technology and nursing.  Normally, they cost $13,200 over four years, roughly the state average .

Board of Education vice-chairman Roberto Martinez dismissed Scott’s proposal last fall as a “gimmick.” But Martinez’s two-terms on the board ended Dec. 31.

While the State College System was given the go-ahead by the Legislature to increase tuition 5 percent this year, colleges have largely escaped Scott’s scorn. In part, it may be because many of their programs are viewed as providing skills for current work force needs.

Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida College System, said last fall that he expected most individual colleges to go along with offering at least one job-oriented degree program at the lower rate to get students out into the local work force.

Scott’s idea isn’t original. Texas Gov. Rick Perry aired a similar challenge in that state in 2012. Since then, 10 universities have offered $10,000 degrees.

Critics have warned the initiative could lead to states sacrificing some level of quality education by deploying adjunct professors and teaching assistants to reduce costs to meet the $10,000 standard. Others also have said publicly financed scholarships may have to be beefed-up to reduce the cost to students.

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