At the Wednesday meeting of the University of Texas System board of regents, David Watts, the president of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, announced that his institution would begin offering a $10,000 bachelor's degree this fall.
Gov. Rick Perry challenged the state's colleges and universities to develop degrees that cost no more than $10,000 — books included — in his 2011 State of the State address.
Institutions have responded in different ways. At a SXSWedu panel in March, Texas A&M University-San Antonio President Maria Ferrier and Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie announced that they had devised a bachelor’s degree that costs roughly $9,700. To reach that affordable level, students must take an unconventional path, completing their associate's degree in high school, followed by two semesters at a community college before ultimately transferring to A&M-San Antonio to complete a bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree in information technology.
The UTPB degree is different in that the $10,000 price tag is for four full years at the university. Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, noted in a statement that UTPB is the first institution in Texas to offer a $10,000 degree that can be completed on one campus.
It's not for everyone. The cost of the degree has been reduced as part of a program to entice promising science students. Students seeking to earn bachelor of science degrees in chemistry, computer science, geology, information systems or mathematics can apply to the school's new Texas Science Scholar program. If they are accepted, their tuition and fees will be capped at $2,500 per year, instead of the roughly $6,300 most UTPB students pay annually.
In addition to maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average, students in the program must commit to completing 30 credit hours per year, ensuring that they can complete the 120 hours needed for a degree in a timely matter — something many students struggle with. Watts said in a statement that he believes the new program "improves access to critical degrees in science and technology and also addresses the institution’s goal to increase enrollment while improving the four-year graduation rate.”
As the program's website notes, space is limited, so those who qualify should apply quickly. To be eligible, students must be Texas residents who come to the university without requiring any developmental coursework and who are ready to take pre-calculus and general chemistry their freshman year.
While $2,500 per year adds up to $10,000 over four years, that total does not include the cost of books, as Perry initially instructed. In a statement, Perry congratulated the university and added, "I encourage all our institutions of higher education to continue their efforts to create more degrees costing no more than $10,000, books included."