COLLEGE
01/30/2013 10:53 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2013

Florida Colleges Accept Rick Scott's $10,000 Degree Challenge, Skepticism Remains

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced Monday that all 23 public institutions in the Florida College System offering baccalaureate degrees have accepted his challenge to create four-year degree programs that cost no more than $10,000.

Scott first challenged the state's public community college system last November. He called for the creation of bachelor's degree programs that cost no more than $10,000 in tuition, though other expenses such as textbooks would not be included in that total, according to the Miami Herald. Currently, the average price of a bachelor's degree at Florida community colleges is $13,264.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) first proposed the idea in 2011, and officials with public colleges in the Lone Star state announced several developing programs in March 2012.

Scott cites high student loan debt as reason to take on the $10,000 challenge. Florida ranks 37th nationally for average student debt, with the average graduate owing $21,184, according to the Project on Student Debt.

But how colleges will meet Scott's challenge is unclear. He's not proposing a funding increase after Florida cut higher education appropriations by 25 percent between FY 2008 and FY 2013. He approved a $300 million cut to public universities last year, yet kept a limit on tuition increases.

Palm Beach State College, one of the schools taking up the $10,000 degree challenge, recently announced it would limit the amount of hours adjunct faculty can work to avoid providing health insurance coverage, citing budget constraints.

Glenn Marston at the Ledger noted another barrier: the Florida legislature will need to pass a law to allow colleges to charge tuition at rates that would differ by degree.

So far, Florida Democrats have balked at Scott's proposal, saying the governor wants a "watered-down, Walmart-style quality of higher education," according to the Florida Times-Union.

A December Quinnipiac University poll found Floridians doubt $10,000 degrees will see the light of day. Just 29 percent say the programs are "very or somewhat likely" to occur.

The colleges aren't sure they'll happen either. Marjorie Starnes-Bilotti, chairwoman of Edison State College's Board of Trustees, told the News-Press a $10,000 degree program "may not be attainable, but golly, we sure can try."

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