$10,000 Degree the “Right” Way

$10,000 Degree

The $10,000 degree has been getting a lot of attention lately. Not surprisingly, that attention has been coming from key conservative leaders like Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. It’s not a coincidence that this platform has become an educational battle cry of the far right.

Would these governors actually like to see a $10,000 college degree in each of their states? Well, I’m sure they would. It’d make them look good, for one. But the real reason these three goobernors are raising such hell about the $10,000 degree also involves an entirely different agenda–the attack on what they would refer to as “liberal indoctrination” that students are getting hit with in college. Because we all know that college professors are mostly focused on teaching their students to be Democrats.

The $10,000 degree is less about actually creating something for students than it is about tearing down the great bastions of liberal thought–American universities. Think about it. No college could actually create a sustainable program that awarded bachelor’s degrees for that sum. What is this–the 90’s?

Nope, the only way a $10,000 degree could actually become a reality would be if traditional colleges were dissolved and rebuilt in some radical new incarnation. Or, of course, if the government started seriously subsidizing tuition costs, but I doubt the guvners would care much for that plan either.

Yes, the conservative push for a cheap college degree is primarily rooted in the desire to unmake the university, to undermine it even.

Thomas Lindsay, Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, claims that “the public has come to realize that the degrees that cost far more than $10,000 aren’t delivering.”

Or is it just that he and his people repeat this mantra so much that it enters mainstream consciousness? In case anyone was wondering, the Texas Public Policy Foundation is chaired by Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, who was on the board of Enron and whom Ronald Reagan allegedly said was his “favorite economist.” Conservative special interest group anyone?

But, Hey, the $10,000 Degree Actually is a Good Idea

Now, does this mean the $10,000 degree is a bad idea? Not at all. In fact, it’s a great idea. As long as we’re clear about our objectives and motives. And as long as we don’t drop the tuition by taking it out of the hides of the teachers who actually make things work. As long as we don’t increase class sizes and/or automate everything that breathes. As long as we don’t dramatically cut labor while dramatically increasing workload, which is pretty much the conservative answer to everything.

We could do this responsibly, though. If we consult with teachers on curriculum development and cut administrative departments that exist only to feed the beast of the university system. That’s where a lot of the waste is on campuses.

Frankly, I’d love to see a $10,000 degree. Who the hell wouldn’t? That’s what my college degree costed and it wasn’t all that long ago. College tuition is absolutely out of control and we do need to get a grip on it. The question is how?