Scott announces more colleges in degree challenge

Governor challenged schools to offer 4-year degrees for $10,000

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MIAMI - Eleven more state colleges have joined Gov. Rick Scott's "$10k degree challenge," Scott announced Monday. That means all 23 Florida public colleges offering four-year degrees have signed on, including Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College.

"We at Florida State College at Jacksonville were intrigued and motivated by Gov. Scott's challenge to create a $10,000 bachelor's degree program," President Will Holcombe said in a statement. "At present, we are developing a $10,000 degree in Logistics, a growing and highly relevant industry for our region. Our model would employ a hybrid of classroom instruction by full-time faculty and online instruction for the theoretical elements of the program."

But the colleges are also making clear that they intend to be flexible in how they define and achieve the goal laid down by Scott, who has installed higher education affordability as a central plank in his education agenda.

"It is important our students can get an affordable education, and our state colleges have stepped up to the challenge to find innovative ways to provide a quality education at a great value," Scott said in a statement released by his office. "Our goal should be that students do not have to go into debt in order to obtain a degree -- and today's announcement of nearly all of our state colleges meeting this challenge puts us closer to achieving that goal for our students and families."

Democrats have slammed what they call the "Walmart" approach to higher education and dismissed the idea as a gimmick.

But state colleges have also indicated that they see the mandate as somewhat open to interpretation. And many of them have said that they're not entirely certain how they will meet Scott's push for each school to offer at least one degree at a total cost of $10,000.

"Do not ask me how all the details will come together on this, okay?" said St. Petersburg College President Bill Law at a November press conference unveiling the initiative. "We know that we have some significant work to do with our friends in the legislative arena. We're going to need some new thinking on how we do some of the tuition pieces, how we put it all together, how we package this, how we support students, how we can use these as pilot projects."

Broward College President David Armstrong says his school is developing bachelor's degrees in teacher education and business, but he says it's really about opening doors for more students.

"Maybe they and their families never thought about going to college because they thought they couldn't afford it, but to think about a $10,000 degree opens up that possibility for them," Armstrong said. "So that's what this is all about."

The Republican governor said in November announced that the affordable degrees should be "in fields that will provide the graduates with the best opportunity for employment."

"We are committed to promoting the economic strengths of our communities by providing a variety of affordable, educational pathways that will lead to employment opportunities," said St. Johns River State College President Joe Pickens. "This $10K degree program will complement the associate degree, bachelor's degree and certificate programs currently available to students at SJR State."

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