Friday, February 01, 2013

The 10K-BA ... A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

 Updated on Saturday 2/16/13
Here's a quote that inspired me when I was a grad student in urban planning many, many decades ago. I beg the reader's indulgence in advance for the now politically incorrect male chauvinism of its phrasing:

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big."

Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect (1846-1912)
I was reminded of this quote when I read an op ed called "My Valuable, Cheap College Degree" in this morning's New York Times (2/1/13) by Arthur C. Brooks, PhD, president of the American Enterprise Institute. Here are a few excerpts:

  • "The median inflation-adjusted household income fell by 7 percent between 2006 and 2011, while the average real tuition at public four-year colleges increased over that period by over 18 percent "
  • I possess a 10K-B.A., which I got way back in 1994. And it was the most important intellectual and career move I ever made ... And the whole degree, including the third-hand books and a sticker for the car, cost me about $10,000 in today’s dollars."
  • "My undergraduate years may have been bereft of frissons, but I wound up with a career as a tenured professor at Syracuse University, a traditional university. I am now the president of a Washington research organization."
  • In the end, however, the case for the 10K-B.A. is primarily moral, not financial. The entrepreneurs who see a way for millions to go to college affordably are the ones who understand the American dream. That dream is the opportunity to build a life through earned success. That starts with education.
Of course Dr. Brooks is being too modest. He was an exceptional student. Few people could have achieved what he achieved when he achieved it the way he achieved it. But that's what exceptional people are supposed to do. They are supposed to accomplish feats that hitherto were unimaginable ... to show the rest of us what's possible, to blaze a path through the forests that others can follow ... better still, to inspire path designers, educators like myself, to widen the paths blazed by the pioneers so that thousands, then millions can reach their goals and achieve their dreams.

The 10K-BA is clearly a Very Big Idea ... but I believe that it is an idea whose time has come and not a moment too soon for the millions of black Americans and the members of other minorities whose wealth and earnings prospects remain devastated in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

P.S. Southern New Hampshire University is about to launch a 5K-AA, i.e., an associates arts degree whose tuition will be $5,000 ... See Paul Fain's "A Disruption Grows Up" (Inside Higher Ed, 10/1/12) ... :-)

References ... Texas, Florida, & Wisconsin

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