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Perry's $10,000 Degree Challenge Spreads to Florida

Even in gubernatorial circles, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Just ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who recently announced a $10,000 degree challenge modeled after the approach of his Texas counterpart, Gov. Rick Perry.

Gov. Rick Perry, speaks at the site in Jonestown, Texas, where volunteers will build a home for injured war veteran Augustine "Augie" Pena.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, apparently taking a page from Gov. Rick Perry's higher education policy playbook, on Monday at the St. Petersburg College campus made an announcement that will sound familiar to Texans.

"I am issuing a challenge to our state colleges to find innovative ways to offer a bachelor’s degree at a cost of just $10,000 in fields that will provide graduates with the best opportunity for employment," Scott said in a statement.

Back in 2011, Perry issued his own challenge to Texas public universities to create a bachelor's degree that only cost $10,000, including books. The idea was met with skepticism, which still lingers in certain higher education circles. But since the announcement, 10 Texas universities have announced the launch of such a degree plan, or the intention to launch one in the near future.

Each approach to the $10,000 degree has been different. Some require students to save costs by navigating a maze comprised of significant amounts of college credit earned in high school and followed by time spent at a less-expensive community college before reaching the university level. Others are little more than merit scholarships for high-performing students in key fields.

While the price tag of these degrees may be lower for students, in nearly ever case, the actual cost of providing the education to those students has not been fundamentally altered. Though yet another take on the $10,000 degree, which may prove an exception, is in development.

Texas A&M University-Commerce, South Texas College and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board are putting together a a bachelor’s in organizational leadership that will rely heavily on online instruction and will allow students to cut costs by moving at their own pace, earning credit based on mastery of a concept rather than time in a classroom. It is scheduled to debut in fall 2013.

In Florida, St. Petersburg College President Bill Law announced that his school would be the first in that state to take up the $10,000 challenge. He said that the university would tweak its tech management program to reduce the price.

This is not the first controversial higher ed policy concept Scott has cribbed from Perry.

Perry previously touted a set of seven proposed "solutions" to alleged problems in public higher education, which became the focal point in a heated debate in spring 2011. The prestigious Association of American Universities even warned Texas A&M University not to follow the governor's lead on the proposals.

At the time, the seven-point plan had a big fan in Scott, who reportedly distributed copies of it to candidates he was considering for university board positions. "It does get the conversation going," Scott told the Orlando Sentinel in 2011.

On Monday, Perry reciprocated the positive vibes following Scott's announcement. "Gov. Scott’s $10,000 degree challenge will pave the way for Floridians to pursue their dreams by making higher education more accountable, accessible and affordable,” he said in a statement.

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