Degree at $10,000 in Reach in Decade, Texas A&M Chancellor Says

Texas high school graduates will be able to obtain a four-year degree for $10,000 on a wide scale within 10 years, said John Sharp, the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system.

The possibility will be more prevalent at smaller, regional campuses rather than at flagship universities like Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, Sharp said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s Houston office.

“I was kind of skeptical of it, and a bunch of us were, but it does work for those regionals,” he said. “You have to change your whole paradigm about a kid, about a student.”

High schools, community colleges and universities in an area must coordinate to make a low-cost degree possible, with students completing about a year’s worth of credits before they reach the state’s higher education institutions, he said.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, in 2011 called on state universities to offer a bachelor’s degree for $10,000 or less including tuition, fees and textbooks. Texas A&M’s San Antonio campus is among nearly a dozen state universities setting up programs to meet Perry’s benchmark.

Flagship institutions such as Texas A&M University in College Station or the University of Texas at Austin may not fit the model since students often attend those schools seeking a more costly four-year college experience, he said.

‘I’m Done’

Sharp, among the last Democrats in Texas to hold statewide office as the comptroller, said he won’t run in any 2014 contest and is done with political campaigning. Sharp lost to Perry in 1998 and to David Dewhurst in 2002 in contests for lieutenant governor.

“I’m done,” said Sharp, who was seen as a top contender for a U.S. Senate race before being appointed chancellor in 2011. “The Lord has spoken to me twice about the last two races and it was all negative.”

As chancellor, Sharp said, he has focused on reducing costs by outsourcing some operations, reducing administrative expenses, acquiring the system’s first law school and building the A&M brand, including renaming some campuses and programs. Saving money allows for reinvestment in teaching and research, such as the plan in College Station to more than double the number of engineering students to 25,000 by 2025, he said.

“Times are tough,” he said. “You don’t have every nickel and dime you need to do things.”

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