State university system offers $10,000 degree plan


by MORGAN CHESKY and Photojournalist MATTHEW OLSEN


Posted on July 24, 2012 at 1:01 PM

AUSTIN -- Some people earn scholarships or take out loans, but at full price, no one gets a bachelor degree for $10,000 - until now. There are a handful of Texas university systems who say, they can make it happen.

For U.T. sophomore Michelle Strzelczyk, it's a vicious cycle.

"Going to class, going to work, or going to work and going to class," Strzelcyzk explains.

She's studying foreign affairs to one day build schools abroad. The only thing standing in her way, student loans, about $30,000.

"Eventually it'll get paid off, but it'll take awhile because it is a lot of money," said Strzelcyzk.

Situations such as Strzelcyzk's are becoming the norm for college students. Last year's U.S. college graduates left with a degree and on average $25,000 in student loan debt.

"It's an enormous problem and it's getting worse all the time," said spokesman Mike Wintemute with the Texas State University System.

Governor Rick Perry addressed the problem in 2011, calling for a bachelor's degree costing ten grand or less, now the Texas State University System says they have their answer.

"We looked specifically at programs that were high demand programs, stem fields such as science, technology, engineering and math." explained Wintemute. 

Their low cost solution starts with high school students graduating with at least a 2.5 GPA and 30 hours of dual credit. Students spend the next year at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, before finishing their degree at Rio Grande College in Del Rio. Cost is capped at $10,000 provided they hold a 3.0 GPA and take 15 hours every semester.

"This simply takes that process and formalizes it under one neat clean degree program where they can plan ahead and know what to expect when they complete their degree," said Wintemute.

For some students, the option comes too late to help. Strzelczyk says that's okay.

"Eventually I'm going to have to pay it back, but I mean with the education that I got with the money they gave me," Strzelcyk said.

Other state school systems are creating their own low-cost options for students. Texas A&M - San Antonio created a partnership with Alamo Colleges allowing a sub-10K bachelor's degree. Students must earn their two-year associate’s degree in high school and then enroll in Alamo Colleges, a local community college system. Upon completing required courses, students can then transfer and finish the rest of the degree at A&M-San Antonio.

U.T. Permian Basin has also released their version of the 10K degree. Students can earn it while attending the school for all four years, however they must first qualify for the new Texas Science Scholar Program.