Texas Rolls Out an ‘Affordable Baccalaureate’ Degree

Two years after Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called on the state’s colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees that would cost students no more than $10,000 each, two institutions rolled out a joint bachelor-of-applied-science program last month that they say can be completed in three years for not much more than the governor’s target amount.

The initiative, called the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program, is being offered jointly by South Texas College and Texas A&M University at Commerce, and was assembled under the auspices of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The effort is supported by the College for All Texans Foundation and by a two-year, $1-million grant from the education-technology organization Educause and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Students can earn the first 90 credit hours required for the degree through online modules, the coordinating board said, with the last 30 credit hours “offered in both a face-to-face and online format.” The degree emphasizes organizational leadership, the board said, adding that the program “will culminate with a digital-capstone experience where students will apply their knowledge and skills to real-world business problems.”

Students who begin with no college credits should be able to complete the program in three years for $13,000 to $15,000, the board said, while those who have already earned some college credits will pay less. About a dozen students are in the program’s initial cohort, with new groups scheduled to start every seven weeks. The coordinating board “plans to significantly increase enrollment with each new cohort,” said Van L. Davis, the board’s director of innovations in higher education.

The coordinating board said that the new offering was “a faculty-driven initiative, developed by community-college and university faculty,” but “we also listened to what national and regional employers are saying they really want: graduates with critical-thinking skills who are quantitatively literate, can evaluate knowledge sources, understand diversity, and benefit from a strong liberal-arts and sciences background.”

Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College’s president, said in a statement that the new degree “is a transition from colleges measuring student competencies based on time in a seat to now allowing students to demonstrate competencies they have acquired in previous employment, life experiences, or personal talents.”

“It is an opportunity for students to earn an affordable bachelor’s degree with the cost as low as $750 per term,” she said, “and allows students to complete as many competencies and courses as possible in that term.”

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