Few students enroll in $10,000 college degree programs

It sounded like a great deal: Get a four-year college degree for the low price of $10,000.

But nearly five years after the state’s community colleges agreed to offer these discounted degrees at the request of Gov. Rick Scott, few students in South Florida have benefited.

Just two students have participated from Palm Beach State College — and only one graduated. Fifteen Broward College students have been enrolled and four have graduated so far. Miami Dade College has 180 students pursuing a $10,000 degree, but the program hasn’t been around long enough to have graduates yet, a spokesman said. Comparable state numbers were not available.

The $10,000 price is a significant savings from the normal $14,500 cost of a state college bachelor’s. degree. State universities charge about $25,000 over four years.

But the often-restrictive eligibility requirements, which varied from college to college, have made it too daunting for many students, experts say.

Broward College signs up students their junior year and limited the low-cost degrees to high achievers attending full-time. Miami Dade College has enrolled students their freshmen year and limited enrollment to recent high school graduates from Miami-Dade County. Palm Beach State, which has discontinued the program, offered the degrees in only one field: information management

“The research is pretty clear that for financial aid programs to be effective, the eligibility requirements need to be as simple and straightforward as possible,” said Troy Miller, associate director for research and policy for the Florida College Access Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for college affordability.

And the discounts may not have even been needed, some colleges and financial aid experts say, since many students attending community colleges received Pell Grants and other aid that already kept their costs below $10,000.

But for the few who have taken advantage of the degrees, the savings have been significant.

Patricia Gallagan, 20, of Hollywood, combined the discount from the $10,000 degree with other grants and waivers. While still in high school, she received her associate’s degree free of charge through a dual enrollment program.