NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Challenges Colleges to Cut Costs

August 27, 2014

Why are college tuition costs so high? Because of federal student loan policy, writes Judah Bellin, researcher at the Manhattan Institute. Because the student loan program provides funds based on the price of attendance, schools have little incentive to keep their costs low, knowing that students will receive federal funding, regardless of sky-high tuition prices.

States are responding to the federal government's failure to deal with tuition rise by offering innovative, inexpensive solutions.  While some states are looking to follow the lead set by Oregon's "Pay It Forward, Pay It Back," plan, which will make tuition free for resident students attending the state's public universities and community colleges, these plans do little to stem tuition growth, says Bellin. 

In 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry challenged the state's schools to change up their instruction styles, utilize online instruction and cut costs in order to offer bachelor's degree programs for $10,000 or less.

In response, several schools are offering programs for at or around that $10,000 mark. For example:

  • At the University of Texas-Permian Basin, STEM students who maintain a sufficient GPA are awarded a scholarship each semester that puts the total bill for their four-year degree under $10,000.
  • Texas A&M-San Antonio offers a cyber-security program to students who utilize college credit earned in high school and have completed two years of community college. These students can finish their degree at the university for just slightly over $10,000.
  • The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program (TABP) is currently offered at two schools: South Texas College and Texas A&M-Commerce. The program, which results in a bachelor's degree in applied science, costs between $13,000 and $15,000 and can be completed in just three years, requiring 90 credit hours of online modules and 30 credit hours of courses in business and management.
  • TABP allows students to pay $750 per term and awards credits once a student has mastered a subject, allowing enrollees to proceed at their own pace and maintain control over the cost of their education.

Bellin writes that these state efforts are unique responses to the college cost problem and illustrate the important role of states as "laboratories of American democracy." 

Source: Judah Bellin, "Judah Bellin: Slimming the College-Tuition Beast," Orange County Register, August 25, 2014.


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