The state of Pennsylvania is looking into the possibility of creating a new type of four-year degree-granting institution which would offer a low cost accelerated bachelor's degree on a no-frills campus. State Board of Education chairman Joseph Torsella says that there should be a no-frills offering in the marketplace, comparing the proposed college to, "a Yugo or a Ford." Among the "missing" items at this school would be sports teams, extracurriculars and the fancy dorm rooms that many students have come to expect after watching Greek.
For now, the option of a super cheap utilitarian state school is nothing more than an idea, but if the recent statistical profile of a college freshmen is an indicator it deserves action. The annual survey of freshmen taken in the fall of 2008 (pdf) indicates that over half of the students have some concern about their ability to finance college and 10.9% express major concerns regarding their ability to secure enough money to finish college.
In all, 64% of students express concern of some kind, a 3% increase from the fall 2007 report. While the 3% increase is noteworthy, the most troubling aspect of the survey is that the percent of concerned students have remained more or less unchanged for the past 10 years!
Clearly there is a need for lower cost four-year degree-granting intuitions in America. If Pennsylvania and other states can successfully trim the extracurriculars and focus dollars on high caliber teachers, institutions like these won't only succeed but will thrive as more young people understand the burden of a student loan. These low cost schools would also provide needed competition to traditional schools to remain competitive on pricing and academic quality improving the higher education landscape as a whole.
Even though I graduated from and work at a "Toyota" institution, the prospect of a "Yugo" next door excites me and buoys my hope for higher education's future!
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