When Gov. Rick Perry challenged the state’s public institutions of higher learning this week to develop bachelor’s degree programs costing no more than $10,000, including textbooks, Mike McKinney was stumped.
“My answer is I have no idea how,” McKinney, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, told the Senate Finance Committee. “I’m not going to say that it can’t be done.”
Tuition, fees and books for four years average $31,696 at public universities in Texas, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College is the cheapest, at $17,532.
The governor’s call for low-cost degrees comes as legislative budget writers and the governor himself have proposed deep cuts in higher education funding — cuts that would put pressure on governing boards to raise tuition, not lower it.
But officials of some university systems — whose governing boards are fully populated by Perry appointees — nevertheless struck an upbeat tone, or at least a neutral one. As McKinney, a former Perry chief of staff, put it: “If it can be figured out, we’ve got the faculty that can figure it out.”
A spokesman for the University of Texas System said, “We look forward to reviewing details of the governor’s proposal.”
This is exactly the kind of thinking we need: fresh approaches toward all aspects of education.