Texas Takes on Student Debt Crisis

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Texas Takes on Student Debt Crisis

When Texas Governor Rick Perry challenged Texas’ public universities last year to find ways to offer a four-year degree for $10,000 or less, not everyone thought his goal was realistic. “I don’t know whether the $10,000 figure is practical reality or not,” Raymund Paredes, the state’s higher education commissioner, told Austin’s American-Statesman. “I interpret the governor’s remarks as a call to be creative and find solutions to the spiraling costs of higher education.”

Just one year later, Texas A&M officials say they have found a way to meet Governor Perry’s challenge.

The university announced in March its plans to partner with Alamo Colleges, a system of local community colleges, and with San Antonio area high schools to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree for just $9,672. Comparable degrees at other Texas public schools average nearly $32,000.

Beginning this fall, Texas A&M-San Antonio will offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in information technology, with an emphasis on information security. High-school juniors will be admitted based on test scores, and will be eligible to complete up to 60 units at no cost. The exact number will vary based on input from the program’s academic advisors, and not all courses taken will be college level. After high school these students will spend a year at an Alamo community college, and then finish with a year at A&M-San Antonio. Students will graduate with little or no student loan debt at around age 20, and will be qualified to work in an industry that typically pays between $16 and $40 an hour.

This will give them a significant advantage as they enter the work force. As National Review reported in April,

The average student today, by comparison, graduates five years after completing high school, 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 make less than $30,000 a year.

Texas A&M schools aim to expand their low-cost options with two more degrees that may be available as soon as 2013. Tarleton State University will offer a bachelor of science in business administration, and A&M-Commerce and South Texas College plan to offer a bachelor of applied sciences in organizational leadership.