Governor pushes $10,000 college degree, draws fire from critics

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Hours after Governor Rick Scott challenged 28 state colleges to develop a $10,000 bachelor’s degree program to make college more affordable for families, state Democrats said the move would make the colleges the “Walmart of education.”

Scott, who is running for re-election in 2014, announced the challenge on the campus of St. Petersburg College — the pilot for the program.

“As I travel the state, families tell me that they care about three things – getting a good job, a quality education, and enjoying a low cost of living,” he said. “As a former community college student myself, I know how important it is for us to keep costs low while working to connect students with degree fields that prepare them for great careers.”

It was unclear how each state college would shape the program but Ricardo Martinez, vice chairman of the State Board of Education, warned Scott that challenge was not serious policy.

“It will be perceived as a gimmick pretending to be a policy used as a sound bite and merely copying the plan announced last year by Governor Perry of Texas,” he told Scott in a letter. “At a time when students are realizing that the only way to become part of the middle class is by getting a college education, the State of Florida has continued to disinvest in higher education during the last few years.”

At Palm Beach State College, for example, a four-year degree costs about $13,000 — one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.

“I have a few friends that pay out of pocket for everything,” said Michael Capriglione, a Palm Beach State College sophomore studying to become a paramedic and firefighter. “Everything starts with education. If you can make it cheap enough for somebody to educate themselves that gets them out on the workforce quicker.”

Amy Shepard, a financial aid manager, said she was unclear how the college would move forward but agreed it was important to increase access to higher education.

“We’re seeing a lot of families that are co-habitating together to make ends meet so that students can receive their education,” she said. “[It is] difficult but not necessarily impossible [to do this]. I think it’s getting the right entities together to make it a reality for students.”

Seven colleges – Broward College, College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Santa Fe College, Seminole State College of Florida, St. Petersburg College and Valencia College – said they had identified programs to be offered for $10,000 or less.

The programs were in high-demand areas that included information technology, business and organization management, education and engineering technology.

Via Alex Sanz.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.