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Cowley County Community College Accepts $15,000 Degree Challenge

Stephen Koranda
Governor Sam Brownback during an event announcing the new degree program.

Gov. Sam Brownback says Cowley County Community College is responding to his challenge to offer a four-year degree for just $15,000. Students who enroll would start their education at the community college before moving to Fort Hays State University. Eligible degrees are in the areas of education and technology.

Brownback made the challenge in the State of the State Address and announced the new degree plan Friday. He says the state has an interest in providing an alternative to more expensive college degrees.

“All of us are interested in what we can do to provide education in quality fashion but at an affordable price for the people of Kansas. That’s what this is about,” Brownback says.

A staff member from the Board of Regents says fall tuition rates have not been set, and lawmakers haven’t yet appropriated the money for the program, so at this point, the low-cost degree is not yet a reality.

The top Democrat in the Kansas House, Rep. Jim Ward, commends the schools for their work on the affordable degree program, but he says part of what’s driving college cost increases is a decline in state funding.

“Who’s against trying to find affordable education opportunities? That’s not the issue. The issue is you’re not providing funding so kids can get into schools at any cost or without massive debts,” Ward says.

Ward blames tax cuts for the state's fiscal condition.

Brownback says he pushed for stable budgets for higher education until the most recent fiscal troubles, which he blames on commodity prices.

“We’re in a tough budget cycle. I would hope we could get back to the point of being stable funding for higher education,” Brownback says.

The Board of Regents says higher education funding has been cut by $75 million in recent years. They've made the restoration of funding cuts a top priority in the Legislature this year.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.