Making A Bachelor’s Degree Cost $10,000?

h/t Bruno Behrend for the article find.

College is expensive for students/parents & the taxpayers pure & simple. A recent article in the Washington Post discusses how to lower college costs & is based off of a report by the Third Way think-tank that highlights how a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree would work through 6 reforms of the college system. I have some further suggestions myself & I encourage you to read the article as my comments under each proposal are reflective upon my take of what I read.

1. Reduce administration

This doesn’t mean instructors but the administrators of the college which according to the article accounts for roughly 70% of a college’s budget. One area specifically I agree with changing the academic adviser role to a professional based academic counselor. I learned pretty quick while in college that neither your major adviser nor the university’s academic advisers were of no help whatsoever. The major advisers were the worst pumping you with bad information about job prospects when you get out of school & prodding you to do additional coursework to “make yourself more marketable”.

2. Reduce perks

The author of the study cuts dorms, food service, sports program subsidies amongst others “perks”. The study suggests that if a student wants those perks that they should pay for it, not the taxpayer. Of course you pay already pay extra for living in a dorm & you pay for a meal plan for food service. However, what the real cost is for dorms/food service vs subsidized costs is beyond me. Sports & extracurricular activities would be extremely difficult to change given how much money is involved in those areas inside & outside of college. It’s almost like the military-industrial complex only it’s the sports-industrial complex.

3. Boost graduation

The study suggests that graduation have a self-paced component to it vs based more on how many years of classroom time a person sees. I can see this approach taking root as more classes are available online. Colleges already offer accelerated course work during the summer when they offer 6 or 8 week courses worth the exact same about of credit hours than if you sat in a class for 18 weeks.

4. Blended learning

Interesting concept of melding together technology & real-life interaction between instructor & between students. When I was in my education classes, our professors always wanted us to utilize technology as much as our classroom would allow. Interactive videos, presentations, etc. were to be integrated in nearly every lecture or lesson plan. Long gone were the days of popping in a video in lieu of actual teaching.

5. Fewer majors

The author of the study breaks down all majors into a few areas: “engineering, biology, education, computer science, English, communication, accounting and economics”.  A great line from the 1994 movie PCUThat’s the beauty of college these days, Tommy! You can major in Game Boy if you know how to bullshit.“. At some point, we’ve made fun of some major we considered absurd. However, there is some element of truth in our taunting of certain majors as in just because you are at college, it doesn’t mean that a college has to provide a major for what you want to study. Another way to put it is why should the taxpayers provide funding if you want to major in Underwater Basket Weaving?

6. Four levels of college

The author says there should be 4 levels of college with each college focused on a different style of student/studies ranging from adult to research to remediation. Interesting but I’m not sure that diversification of actual colleges are the answer compared to offering those same programs within the current structure is better.

I feel there are two additional reforms that could be implemented immediately that would lower the cost of a Bachelor’s Degree significantly.

7. No General Education requirements

Eliminate the re-teaching of college students. Taxpayers fund students’ education in high school & if the students haven’t learned Math, English or Science before they go to college then that is the fault of the high school and/or the students. We as taxpayers should not have to pay for our colleges to teach kids subject matter they should have already been taught before getting to college. Colleges call these Gen. Ed. requirements an attempt to create a “well-rounded individual”. In reality, our colleges are forcing students/taxpayers to pay for 1 1/2 to 2 years of classes BEFORE they get to take their major courses in years 3 & 4. Eliminating Gen. Ed. requirements would allow college students to graduate in about 2 years depending on their major & cut a huge portion of college costs in the process.

8. Allowing credits to transfer

There are several state colleges to choose from in Illinois. However, if I take a major level course like History of Latin America at Eastern Illinois University, that credit will not transfer to Western, Southern or any other state college. Most, not all Gen. Ed. courses will transfer though. Even Junior Colleges have credit transfer problems. I can’t take many, if any, major level courses at a Junior College & expect those credits to transfer & count towards my major at a state college. Credit transfers would also allow students to take summer courses at university closer to home & transfer those credits to the university where they attend full-time.

There is no doubt that higher education needs to be reformed. Tuition & fees continue to increase at colleges which in turn increases the costs to the taxpayer & students. Reforms don’t have to all be painful or spartan but reform must happen.