In last year’s State of the State Address, Gov. Rick Perry challenged Texas universities to create college degree programs that would cost no more than $10,000.
His appeal, made on behalf of our state’s lower-and middle-income students, was met with some rational skepticism. After all, in 2011, average tuition and fees for Texas universities stood at more than $27,000, and few were predicting anything but that they would need to go up still further.
Fortunately for Texas’ students and their parents – and Texas’ taxpayers – the A&M System sought to prove itself worthy of the trust implicit in the governor’s exhortation.
At this week’s SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas A&M-San Antonio announced a partnership with the Alamo Colleges and local school districts to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree that will cost $9,672 total.
This fall, local high school juniors in the program will begin to take college-level courses culminating in a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Information Technology with an emphasis on Information Security. After completing their last two years of high school, they will then spend a year studying at Alamo Colleges, and then finish their degree at A&M-San Antonio.
These students will not only graduate around age 20, they will do so virtually if not entirely free of student-loan debt, and with careers awaiting them with wages that average between $16 and $40 per hour.
In comparison, the average student today graduates with $25,000 of student-loan debt. Worse still, a study published last year by the University of Chicago Press finds that 31 percent of recent college graduates have had to move back home with their parents; of those who are able to find jobs, the majority are making under $30,000 a year.
How many parents with college graduates living in their basements would envy for their children an opportunity such as that to be offered by A&M-San Antonio?
The cyber-security degree program is a perfect fit for the San Antonio area, in which the information-technology industry plays a large and growing role. The city’s unique combination of cyber resources played no small role in its recently being chosen by the Air Force to house its Cyber Command (24th Air Force).
The total economic impact of information technology and cyber business reached $10 billion in the city in 2010, and is expected to increase to $15 billion by 2015. A&M-San Antonio’s new $10,000 degree in information security will prove a timely boon to both the economy of San Antonio and the security of the nation.
And better still, the A&M System plans to launch two other degree offerings for just under $10,000: a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Tarleton State University as well as a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Organizational Leadership that will be offered through A&M-Commerce and South Texas College. Further details on these are not yet available, but it is plausible that they may follow the model provided by the A&M-San Antonio’s new program.
Gov. Rick Perry and the A&M Board of Regents have taken their share of undeserved ridicule for their efforts to make higher education more affordable. But they are succeeding, and for that, we all owe them our gratitude. In last year’s State of the State Address, Gov. Rick Perry challenged Texas universities to create college degree programs that would cost no more than $10,000.
Thomas K. Lindsay, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.