May 11, 2012
"Ten in Texas": The $10,000 University Plan
Posted by Christine Hurt

Near my hometown, there was a ranch that covered 3 million acres called the "XIT Ranch."  The myth (which seems to be wrong) was that the cattle brand "XIT" stood for "Ten in Texas."  The story stuck, and the term "Ten in Texas" has been used for any number of things.  Maybe because it's just catchy.  Ten is a nice round number.  So maybe that's why in February Gov. Rick Perry challenged each of the Texas universities to come up with a university degree that costs $10,000.  Not per year, total.  A number that is, in fact, 1/4 to a 1/3 of what Texas university degrees cost now, without room and board (Texas costs $41,168 without room and board).

So, Texas universities are now rolling out their $10,000 plans.  Most of these have a common theme:  get the bulk of your degree somewhere else.  (Sort of like that joke, "How do you get a million dollars?  First, start with two million dollars.")  The plans fall into two categories:  the high school/university combo or the community college/university combo..  The first type of plan requires students to take college-level courses during high school, probably at a community college, then finish at a particular campus.   The Texas A&M plans like this so far require students to finish at A&M -- Commerce or A&M San Antonio, and can choose from a small number of majors.  The University of Texas system has delivered a proposal at on of its campuses, UT - Permian Basin, the Texas Science Scholars Program, which enrolls a small number of students who are able to test out of a chunk of math and science and go on a limited number of STEM majors.  The students must maintain a 3.0 in these courses.  The degree costs more than the $2500 a year, but is subsidized by enrolling more students at UT-Permian Basin paying the full cost.  In other words, it's not really a $10,000 degree, it's a scholarship program.

My own university, Texas Tech, is finalizing a plan that would require applicants to have finished 80 hours at a community college, then 40 hours at Tech. 

So, I wouldn't say that any Texas university has created a $10,000 degree.  They have created limited programs to award the final 1/3 to 1/2 of a degree, or they have created small scholarship programs subsidized internally.  None of these are bad ideas, of course, and they are based on what already happens.  Texas students have been taking cheaper courses at community colleges and transferring since forever, and Texas universities have been admitting students on scholarships forever.  (I had the $0 degree.)  And, students have been going to non-flagship campuses, which are cheaper, for a long time.  So these new programs aren't really going to change the cost of a Texas degree much at all, and they aren't going to change the face of university education any time soon. 

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