Wanna’ start a $10,000 College Degree?

Want to go in with me and start a college? We’ve been asked to do this, you know. Presidential candidate Rick Perry issued a challenge to educators to make a Bachelor’s degree that costs $10,000 (books included). He sees no reason why college costs can’t be lowered to $2500 per year. Want to take him on his challenge? You can be the President—I’ll be your assistant. I’ve spent the last 16 years in higher education so let me rough out some numbers on our new college degree for $10,000. (If we succeed maybe Perry will put us in charge of fixing the whole US budget problem when he gets elected President!) So, here’s my first figuring on how we could produce Rick Perry’s $10,000 college degree:
1. ELIMINATE room and board. Our first is to cut out living on campus which eliminates all room and board. Anyone who has teenagers knows you can’t buy a student’s food, hire someone to cook it, someone else to wash their dishes and clean up their tables after them, and at the same time pay for a building to do it in for nine months -- for only $2500 per student. And if we could, we can’t spend the whole amount on food, let alone room, and heating and air conditioning. In our college students will have to stay home where mom and dad can cover these costs. We can sell our campus—though if this idea catches on there won’t be much market for actual campus’.
2. CANCEL CAMPUS LIFE. Since nobody will be living on campus there is little need for other expensive things like athletics, library, or activities directors, or resident mentors, or chaplains, or counselors, or student advisors, or a health center, or the cleaning lady who takes out trash and picks up after them in the lounges. Their parents can do these things at home.
3. CUT ALL FULL-TIME PROFESSORS. We won’t be able to have any full time professors either for a $10,000 degree. We’ll use “adjuncts” to supervise the online curriculum-in-a-box that will all be pre-written. If students have questions about life, or physics or faith they can ask their parents or pastor or friends. For a $10,000 degree we’ll have to focus on just the degree, not things like mentoring or chapel.
4. FIRE ALL administrators. With nobody living on campus, and no full-time professors, and no actual physical campus, what would we need administrators for? The only administrators we’ll need is you (the President) and me (your assistant). All we need to administer is the writing of the curriculum-in-a-box—you and I can put the curriculum online ourselves.
Why am I eliminating so many things? Because we only have $2500 a year and we’ve got to pay the part-time adjunct teachers. Here is my first figuring: Let’s say our proverbial adjunct spends 15 minutes per student per week reading, responding and grading the student’s work. That totals for the entire year (five courses X 15 weeks X two semesters) a total of about 750 adjunct hours a year per student. Whoops, this isn’t working. Since the student only pays $2500 a year, if we used the whole $2500 for adjunct pay the adjunct would only get $6.66 per hour, less than minimum pay. And there’d be nothing left to develop the curriculum or pay for the servers, or pay you as the President.  
Well, I’m not up to Rick Perry’s challenge. Maybe Rick has a secret plan? Or maybe I’m missing something. You got a better idea? Can you design a $10,000 Bachelor’s degree? If so, you should be President… not of our college, but of the country!
That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.
So, what do you think?
The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633
Keith Drury October 25, 2011

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