Eleven more state colleges have joined Gov. Rick Scott’s “$10k degree challenge,” Scott announced Monday, meaning that all 23 colleges that currently offer four-year degrees have backed the initiative, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
But the colleges are also making clear that they intend to be flexible in how they define and achieve the goal laid down by Scott, who has installed higher education affordability as a central plank in his education agenda.
“It is important our students can get an affordable education, and our state colleges have stepped up to the challenge to find innovative ways to provide a quality education at a great value,” Scott said in a statement released by his office. “Our goal should be that students do not have to go into debt in order to obtain a degree — and today’s announcement of nearly all of our state colleges meeting this challenge puts us closer to achieving that goal for our students and families.”
Democrats have slammed what they call the “Walmart” approach to higher education and dismissed the idea as a gimmick.
But state colleges have also indicated that they see the mandate as somewhat open to interpretation. And many of them have said that they’re not entirely certain how they will meet Scott’s push for each school to offer at least one degree at a total cost of $10,000.
“Do not ask me how all the details will come together on this, okay?” said St. Petersburg College President Bill Law at a November press conference unveiling the initiative. “We know that we have some significant work to do with our friends in the legislative arena. We’re going to need some new thinking on how we do some of the tuition pieces, how we put it all together, how we package this, how we support students, how we can use these as pilot projects.”
As an example: Polk State College said Monday that it had met Scott’s challenge – as far as students are concerned. The cost of a degree at the school is about $13,700, college officials said, but is less than $10,000 when financial aid is taken into account.
“We couldn’t be happier to know that the governor is using his influence to spotlight affordability within our system,” President Eileen Holden said in a press release from the college. “Now we will turn our attention to the challenge of securing appropriate state support during the upcoming legislative session. The Governor can be a key ally in that task.”