Can $10,000 buy you a bachelor’s degree? At least seven state colleges in Florida are about to find out after taking the Governor’s $10,000 Degree Challenge.
Gov. Rick Scott announced the challenge just as the Christmas season was picking up where Thanksgiving left off. Now two prominent local colleges — Seminole State College of Florida and Valencia College — are hoping to give the gift of higher education during a time of rapidly rising costs.
“We have all these goals for our kids, but it’s really getting them an education so they can live the American dream,” Scott said at a press conference announcing the program.
He said he hoped to make getting an education more like when the cost of living and the cost of education didn’t make it prohibitive to work and go to school at the same time.
“My parents didn’t have any money to pay for education, so I we went to junior college…And back then you could go to school, you could work, you could end up with a degree and no debt.”
Local college officials welcomed the challenge, with Seminole State and Valencia jumping on board the program the same day it was launched.
“I applaud the governor’s office for giving colleges the flexibility to create a degree and a program that works best for each community and each college,” Valencia College Chairwoman Berticia Cabrera-Morris said.
That flexibility amounted to a catchall approach for colleges to decide for themselves what degree programs they could afford to offer for $10,000. For Valencia that meant electrical and computer engineering degrees, and a bachelor’s in photonics. For Seminole State it’s a bachelor’s in construction, a stepping-stone to becoming a licensed contractor.
The goal is to get students on a path toward growing, skilled career fields, Scott said.
Seminole State President E. Ann McGee said that since the college already has set up pathways to employment, the less expensive degree program will streamline the path from high school to high-paying even more.
“[Seminole State] partners with several employers including Wharton-Smith Incorporated to identify and create degree programs that prepare students to be job-ready,” she said.
Both Valencia and Seminole State representatives said they had already been working to lower the cost of a bachelor’s degree. The schools began offering bachelor’s degrees in 2010 and 2009, respectively.
Valencia College President Sanford C. Shugart said the college had already dropped its total costs for degrees by 25 percent in the past five years. The $10,000 challenge would further that even more, he said.
That’s the whole point, Scott said.
“I know how important it is for us to keep costs low while increasing skills training and career readiness for students,” Scott said.