Budget Bachelor's Degrees, Anyone?

With the economy in unspeakably bad shape, higher ed insiders have begun wondering if the frills that students and parents have been demanding for years are endangered.

Do college students really need sushi bars, omelet stations, full vegan menus and lobster nights? For that matter, how many cereal brands is enough?

“Is having seven cereals in the dining hall instead of one a frill?” The president of College of St. Benedict in Minnesota posed that question recently.

Of course, the culinary excesses are nothing compared with the construction arms race that until recently you could see and hear on just about any college campus. Do we really need dorms that look like resorts and $50 million athletic centers? (That’s how much the student rec center cost at my alma mater — the University of Missouri.)

At least one state is exploring the possibility of offering a budget bachelor’s degree. The Pennsylvania State Board of Education recommended last month that the state create a new school that would offer accelerated year-round programs to get students in and out of college as quickly as possible.  Pennsylvania graduates, who typically leave school about $19,000 in hock, possess one of the highest debt loads.

Here’s what the board’s chairman Joseph Torsella said about the economy move:

Somewhere there should be a no-frills option. Let’s see if there’s a market for a Yugo or a Ford.

It will be interesting to witness how teenagers and parents react to this sort of movement — if it indeed catches on at all.

Learn how to shrink the cost of college by reading The College Solution.

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