How to Get a Bachelor’s Degree for Less Than $10,000

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When Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for a $10,000 bachelor’s degree in his State of the State address last year, a lot of people rolled their eyes. The Austin–American Statesman’s headline read: “Perry’s call for $10,000 bachelor’s degrees stumps educators.” But now, it’s becoming a reality.

On Tuesday at the SXSWedu panel in Austin, Texas, education officials announced that $10,000 bachelor’s degrees aren’t just some quixotic dream for higher education. They’re almost here. At Texas A&M-San Antonio, for instance, students will be able to get a bachelor’s in information technology with an emphasis on cybersecurity for $9,672 in the fall of 2012. Yes – a four-year degree for under $10,000.

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It’s the result of a cooperative effort between Texas A&M and Alamo Colleges, which is a community college system in San Antonio. By the fall, the university will start offering a Bachelor’s in Applied Arts & Sciences that incorporates dual credit courses that will be offered to Texas high school students beginning their junior year. Those students will essentially get their first two years of college out of the way through those credits, so when they show up at Texas A&M, it’ll be as if they’re already college juniors.

They can also test out of certain courses and gain college credit, such as through AP testing. According to a Texas A&M-San Antonio spokesperson, taking those dual credit courses won’t cost students anything during high school because it’s covered by state funding.

This seems to be only the beginning for less expensive degrees in Texas. At SXSWedu, officials from Alamo Colleges and South Texas College both said that beginning next year, a bachelor’s of applied science in organizational leadership will also be under $10,000, according to The Texas Tribune.

While the cost is remarkable, what’s even more amazing is that just a year ago, college officials themselves were awestruck by Gov. Perry’s proposal for bachelor’s degrees under $10,000.

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“My answer is I have no idea how,” Mike McKinney, the chancellor of the Texas A&M University System told the Senate Finance Committee at the time, according to The Austin-American Statesman, when asked about the feasibility of Gov. Perry’s proposal. “I’m not going to say that it can’t be done.”

But it certainly seemed far-fetched. According to the Statesman, tuition, fees and books for four years at a Texas public university averages close to $32,000, and the cheapest school last year was Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College at $17,532.

And there should be even more affordable degrees soon. A Texas A&M-San Antonio spokesperson told me that they’re already looking into additional degrees that will be under $10,000 and could possibly be available by the fall of 2013.