The $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree

As Businessweek reports, the first nationally available $10,000 bachelor’s degree was announced yesterday, offered by the either oddly- or aptly-named College for America which is an online wing of Southern New Hampshire University. The coolest/weirdest part is it operates through employers, so places like McDonald’s will offer College for America as an employee benefit:

College for America doesn’t teach courses with credit hours. It teaches competencies, and it tests them using projects that resemble work that employees would be called on to do in their real lives. The first bachelor’s degrees to be offered are in health-care management and communications. College for America soft-launched last year with various associate’s degrees.

College-bound high schoolers may not find any of this particularly exciting, which is deliberate. Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, told me the program is designed for adult learners who don’t want the “bubble,” with quads and clubs, that traditional college-age students do. “They’re chomping down a meal in the parking lot, racing home to see their kids before they get to sleep.” They’re all about acquiring and demonstrating mastery of new skills, and getting paid for them.

You know what, online aside, $10,000 for a degree sounds like how much a degree should cost. I mean, if not free. If someone came up to me and was like, “How much would you be willing to give me, out of your savings account, for a degree?” I might say $10,000. Then again I already have a bachelor’s degree, and it cost many people much more than $10,000, so I guess that’s easy for me to say.

Either way: into this, or into the idea of practical degrees, not into the name, want to hear more.

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18 Comments / Post A Comment

samburger (#5,489)

I wonder if it has a robust transfer program? This sounds like a great plan B for folks who start at Manicured Quad University and then leave for some normal adult I-can’t-spend-30k-a-year-on-this-shit-anymore reason.

Linnae Selinga (#6,600)

@samburger If you already have an associate’s degree, we do review and accept those as transfer credits for our general education requirements. Credits over or under an associate’s degree don’t transfer per se, but our model is set up so that you can move as quickly through the program as you like. So the experience you gained from your courses or work will help you complete projects much more quickly.

I am also interested, but! May I humbly suggest that what a bachelor’s degree should cost is $0.00? I know I’m a dreamer and a radical and all of that, but it seems like there are some fairly necessary things that we want everyone to have access to that just don’t lend themselves well to market forces. You know, like healthcare and highway construction. Still, $10,000 is better than the alternatives.

Meaghano (#529)

@Josh Michtom@facebook oh, I AGREE.

@Josh Michtom@facebook In much of continental Europe, undergraduate degrees are basically free (or a few hundred euros per year). True, their colleges are not as highly ranked as American ones, but somehow they do maintain a functioning modern society complete with jet aircraft, nuclear power plants, satellites, computers, TV reality shows, fast food, and so forth.

Even though they don’t have on-campus climbing walls!

Eric18 (#4,486)

@stuffisthings Their universities are far lower in quality than American ones, in general. And most of the economies they are graduating into aren’t exactly doing so hot. Just ask 20-somethings in Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy to name a few.

@Eric18 Sigh. I hesitate to engage but I can’t help noting that Spain, Portugal, and Italy all charge tuition, and well above the EU average. Universities in Germany, on the other hand, are free; if you see any big problems with their economy, the skills of their workers, or their level of technological advancement and innovation I’d love to hear about it!

Eric18 (#4,486)

@stuffisthings Ha, not at all. But Germany didn’t spend like a drunken sailor on a bloated and inefficient public sector (Theirs is actually pretty well run). Research why they are so reluctant to bail out the southern European countries who weren’t responsible with their finances.

And BTW, Germany is just one country in Europe. As large and powerful as it is, it does not represent all of Europe.

This sounds like technical college but with a really high price tag.

Stina (#686)

@Jake Reinhardt Yeaaah I looked up my local technical college and they didn’t have a “Health Care Management” degree but they did have a “Human Resources Management” certificate and that, on the high end, cost about $3500 and “Medical Coding” was $4000.

Sidenote: I understand how an adult wouldn’t want to go to a kegger or whatever but “the bubble” was pretty darn fun at the time, so their loss.

@Jake Reinhardt : Compared to my local community college, the price isn’t bad, but it’s a bit apples-and-oranges. The community college is roughly $700 per four-credit class, so we’re talking around $6000 for a two-year degree. Many students transfer those credits to a four-year college, which is invariably more expensive, so …

I get concerned when I hear “competency-based” rather than “credit hours,” so I’d like to find out more about how this actually plays out in the final analysis. Still, Southern New Hampshire University’s an accredited institution, and if the final degree is the same as their regular four-year BA / BSc, then it sounds like a pretty good deal.

Right yeah — and like samburger said downthread sounds like a good option for transferring INTO but transferring from this program to a different four-year college sounds like it could be a disaster, unlike community colleges.

samburger (#5,489)

@Jake Reinhardt Technical colleges are subsidized more heavily in some states than in others. It’s $150/credit at my local tech college, which is about $15,000 for a four year degree.

Linnae Selinga (#6,600)

@Jake Reinhardt Hi Jake – We offer accredited liberal arts degrees. The competencies in our program map to the courses in traditional liberal arts degrees from SNHU, in addition to mapping to the critical competencies identified by our industry partners.

Linnae Selinga (#6,600)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose Hi, I just want to share that even though we’ve detached our program from the credit hour so that working adults can proceed through the program at their own pace, we still offer traditional college credits from SNHU for each “course” (we call it a goal) completed. Thanks for you interest!

capitalunicorn (#6,587)

There have been $10k degree programs in Texas since 2012: https://www.texastribune.org/2013/01/30/guide-getting-one-texas-new-10000-degrees/

I’m not sure if they count as “nationally available” since they require moving to Texas and attending classes on-campus like any traditional BA/BS program, but Business Week’s headline makes it sound like the SNHSU program is more novel than it really is.

Elsajeni (#1,763)

@capitalunicorn I think the real disqualifying factor as far as “nationally available” goes is that a lot of them would require not just moving to Texas, but doing so well before you want to start your college career — the majority involve taking some dual-credit courses through a community college before you graduate high school, and pretty much all of them will only come in under $10,000 if you get in-state tuition. Although, to be fair, if your definition of “nationally available” is “you don’t have to move to the location of the school,” no degree program that isn’t offered primarily online is going to meet that definition.

ThatJenn (#916)

I imagine that the person on the street who wants your savings to pay for a degree is wearing a trenchcoat lined with diplomas.

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