## Tuesday, February 15, 2011

### You could, but would you want to?

Texas governor Rick Perry has proposed (as a deliberately provocative target) that the state's (public) universities should be set up so that a student can get a bachelor's degree for $10,000 total (including the cost of books). Hey, I'm all for moon shot-type challenges, but there is something to be said for thinking hard about what you're suggesting. This plan (which would set costs per student cheaper than nearly all community colleges, by the way) is not well thought-out at all, which is completely unsurprising. To do this, the handwave argument is that professors should maximize online content for distance learning, and papers could be graded by graduate students or (apparently very cheaply hired) instructors. Even then, it's not clear that you could pull this off. Let me put it this way: I can argue that the world would benefit greatly from a solar electric car that costs$1,000, but that doesn't mean that one you'd want to own can actually be produced in an economically sustainable way at that price.  This is classic Perry, though.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder about these politicians who will gladly pay a premium for an imported luxury automobile but want gov't services at cut rate prices.

Of course this means that they will send their children to private schools and public schools will be for the poor. Graduates of public institutions will not be able to get a job because of their low educational level and the caste system will be re-instituted.

Doug Natelson said...

What's truly odd about this is that it would really hurt Texas A&M if he seriously tried to push this, and he seems to care more about A&M than about many aspects of the state. Of course, this really is a soundbite that's not meant to have any follow-up.

Anonymous said...

It actually doesn't seem unreasonable, if your goal is to simply stamp out more generic undergraduate degrees. I don't see it working in fields like science or engineering where expensive equipment or facilities are required so that students are cutting edge and have hands-on experience.

It can be done, though, for majors like History, English, Psychology, Philosophy, language majors and social sciences. I don't see why an undergraduate education in those majors should cost so much -- most would benefit far more from internships, graduate study and international travel, etc.

Anonymous said...

Is that $10k out of a student's pocket, or$10k total (tuition, books, and fees from the student, combined with the amount transferred from state to uni per student)?

Doug Natelson said...

Anon, that's supposed to be $10K out of pocket for the student for the whole thing, including books. Sure, you could do that if the state subsidized this, but I think you can be pretty certain that Rick Perry is not proposing an expansion of socialized college education. In fact, you might imagine that an alleged fan of free markets would applaud for-profit diploma mills for making as much money as possible on education, particularly as the state prepares to absolutely slash public K12 education funding. (Having two kids in public schools, I'm very very concerned about how TX, already doing poorly in per-student public education support (see here) and worst in the US in high school diplomas (see here) is going to deal with its enormous budget problems.) CarlBrannen said... My total out of pocket costs for a BS degree in New Mexico was about$9000, and I graduated in 3 years in 1979 at one of the cheapest schools in the country. Not sure how much of that was room and board, I lived on campus mostly.

Anonymous said...

Also don't forget that that $9.000 education would cost ~$27.000 today (that is with the roughest inflation estimates)

Revathi said...

I think the title should be "you want to but could you"?