Recently, Alex Stenner, a sophomore at the University of
Wisconsin Green Bay, saved hundreds of dollars on tuition and hours
spent in class. He signed up for a free online introduction to
psychology course offered by Education Portal, of Mountain View,
Calif.; crammed his studying into two weeks over the Christmas
holidays; and then took the College Board's College Level
Examination Program (CLEP).
After he passed that exam, his university awarded him academic
credit for the psychology course. That meant he'd obtained the
course credits for only $90 the cost of taking the CLEP versus
"having to pay $750 [to] $900 to take the course from the
university," says Mr. Stenner.
He now hopes "to be able to take up to four more courses this
As college costs mount, Americans are looking for creative ways
to cut tuition bills. Two recent initiatives are getting lots of
attention. One is the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCs),
which are free courses open to anyone. The second is the debut in
Texas of the $10,000 tuition plan.
"If [widely] adopted, those two ideas would certainly lower
students' cost of college," says Richard Vedder, director of The
Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington.
"They're clearly viable plans, since they exist in some forms
The $10,000 tuition plan addresses college costs directly.
Proposed in 2011 by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the plan calls for
creating a degree program capped at $10,000 for tuition and
textbooks at Texas' public colleges and universities. Colleges could
accomplish this through a variety of methods, such as using online
courses, followed by competency-based exams; partnering with
community colleges that offer a year of courses before the student
transfers to a four-year institution; and having students enroll in
some college classes while still in high school.
The idea is sparking "a revolution," says Thomas Lindsay, head of
the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy
Foundation in Austin.
Already, 13 Texas public universities have adopted some variation
on the $10,000 degree. In November, Florida's Gov. Rick Scott
challenged his state's community colleges to offer $10,000
bachelor's degrees. California Assemblyman Dan Logue has introduced
a bill that would limit tuition to no more than $10,000 for
undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math degrees at
California's state universities.
Not everyone is a fan. Critics point out that the tuition cap may
save money for students, but it does little to help colleges and
universities shave costs. …