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College Too Expensive? Try the $5,000 Degree

If you thought Texas Governor Rick Perry’s $10,000 college degree sounded good, you’ll love this.

The New York Times has a profile of Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, which lets its students cobble together coursework and test credits earned from a variety of institutions, including online, potentially at a significantly lower cost than traditional four-year institutions. One student reportedly spent about $5,300 to earn both a bachelor’s and an associate’s degree—all without even enrolling in an Edison course:

In a way, that is the whole point of the college, a fully accredited, largely online public institution in Trenton founded in 1972 to provide a flexible way for adults to further their education.

“We don’t care how or where the student learned, whether it was from spending three years in a monastery,” said George A. Pruitt, the college’s president, “as long as that learning is documented by some reliable assessment technique.”

Judging from students’ track records, the credential Edison awards is no joke. Its grads had the highest pass rate on New Jersey’s CPA exam, for instance. Social scientist and AEI President Arthur C. Brooks is a noted alumnus, too.

This is the “stuff learned vs. time served” model in action. The whole point is to allow different students to move at their own pace and earn degrees without crushing debt. Schools like Edison prove that this model can work.

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