Thursday, February 6, 2014

Texas Education And 'Affordable' Degrees

The Texas Higher Education Coordination Board initiated a program called "The Affordable Degree Program" in response to a challenge from Rick Perry and other Texas politicians.

The program is offered at a limited number of Texas state colleges, and only at select campuses. It is targeted towards degrees in applied science that emphasize management and leadership. The lower-cost degrees will be available to qualifying students at South Texas College and Texas A&M - Commerce Campus.

The BAS degrees include both online courses and traditional "brick and mortar" learning. The first 90 credit hours will be exclusively online with the remaining 30 required hours being a combination of both traditional and online courses.

The average tuition cost to students is approximated at $750 per semester with the degree costing anywhere between $4,500 and $15,000, depending upon the amount of credits the student already accrued, which degree option they choose, and how many courses per semester they complete.

Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement concerning the program:

"Texas attracts world-class companies across a variety of industries, and today's evolving economy requires a skilled workforce prepared to meet the diverse needs of our employers. In order to meet new demands, it is essential that Texans have access to affordable, quality higher education. Texas remains committed to cultivating new, innovative solutions like this one to create opportunity for our communities now and into the future."

Dr. Shirley Reed, PhD., president of South Texas College, issued the following remarks concerning the program:

"This new program is a transition from colleges measuring student competencies based on time in a seat to now allowing students to demonstrate competencies they have acquired in previous employment, life experiences or personal talents. The competency based approach to this bachelor of applied science degree will open opportunities for students who already possess the knowledge and skills to demonstrate mastery of coursework in this organizational leadership degree. It is an opportunity for students to earn an affordable bachelor’s degree with the cost as low as $750 per term, and allows students to complete as many competencies and courses as possible in that term.”

Dr. Dan R. Jones, PhD., president of Texas A&M-Commerce added:

"This is a game-changing innovation for higher education that has the potential to reshape the way that we deliver higher education in Texas. But the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program is also firmly grounded in the A&M-Commerce mission of creating a path-way for students to earn the degree that will forever transform their lives and reshape their futures."
THECB Commissioner Raymond Paredes stated:

"In 2011, Gov. Perry called on Texas higher education to develop low-cost alternatives for earning a college degree. The launch of this program answers that call and demonstrates to institutions around Texas and the nation that faculty-driven collaboration and the adoption of game-changing innovations in higher education delivery can create new, affordable pathways to degree attainment."

In 2011, Perry issued a challenge for State collegiate institutions to come up with a baccalaureate degree program that would cost students less than $10k. The challenge added that the degree programs must involve degrees and certifications that would be marketable in today's evolving technical economy. This challenge was made in addition to several other executive "action items" involving high school level reforms. Those reforms in conjunction with several key laws passed by the 83rd legislative session targeted truancy, dropout rates, and the value of education received by Texas high school students.

It also included legislation passed which outlaws materials created for Common Core as well as any automated assessment tools that use Common Core standards. This law has created confusion as the State Board of Education was also approved to purchase I-Station software for use in every Texas public school. The I-Station program includes an assessment tool designed specifically for Common Core standards.

In addition, Sen. Dan Patrick lead a legislative inquiry into CSCOPE. The controversial curricula came under scrutiny for questionable materials and alleged attempts to circumvent parental consent. Many CSCOPE curriculum items and lesson plans are suspended from use while others remain in use by public educators. The curricula and materials themselves are not scheduled to come under an official approving/disapproving review until 2015.

In answer to that challenge, THECB, Texas A&M, South Texas College, and College For All Texans (an NPO/NGO). It's built, partially, from a $1,000,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC). NGLC is a nation-wide, allegedly non-partisan fund that is partnered with several non-profit foundations. Among those foundations is the Gates foundation, which promotes Common Core and CSCOPE, both highly volatile and controversial curricula in Texas.