SF College taking the '$10,000 degree' seriously


Students walk past a large sign during the first day of classes at Santa Fe College in this Aug. 21, 2013 file photo.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.

Florida students applying for college can soon look forward to obtaining certain bachelor's degrees for about 71 percent of current costs.

Santa Fe College, one of more than 20 colleges in the state to accept Gov. Rick Scott's $10,000 degree challenge, plans to kick off the program for freshmen in fall 2014, said Ed Bonahue, chief academic officer and provost at SFC.

In November of 2012, Scott challenged colleges to make bachelor's degrees available to students for $10,000 or less. In the Florida College System, they usually cost about $14,000.

"The $10,000 degree challenge is one that asks colleges to really extend their mission of access, to try to create opportunities for students to go to school, to get out and get good jobs," Bonahue said.

He said at this point, he is unaware of any funds designated by the state that would support colleges pushing to expand this program. He said SF College is big enough that it won't have to make cuts to afford waiving the tuition difference for students.

SF College's first $10,000 bachelor's degree will be in organizational management with a concentration in public safety. Other degrees are expected to be offered in the future, he said.

This degree is for students interested in pursuing careers in police or fire departments, he said. Law enforcement and fire agencies would like to see additional students prepared with baccalaureate degrees, he said.

Daryl Johnston, director of the Institute of Public Safety at Santa Fe, said the degree is also ideal for current public safety personnel looking to move into management.

"This degree would be absolutely perfect for someone who would like to become a sergeant, first-line supervisor or a lieutenant," he said. "And of course, it would be appropriate for command-level personnel, captains or above, with a police or sheriff's organization."

A bachelor's degree is not required to enter management ranks in most agencies, but it is preferred, Johnston said.

Gainesville Police Department Officer Dylan Hayes-Morrison graduated from SF College's Police Academy in 2009 and got a job with GPD that year.

He said everyone in his class at the academy who was hired by GPD had a bachelor's degree. It makes you competitive, he said.

"It's become a very professional job, meaning they really do value education," he said.

He attended Santa Fe his first two years of college, then transferred to the University of Florida to finish his bachelor's degree in criminology in 2008. He attended SF College's police academy after that.

He said if the $10,000 bachelor's degree had been available when he was in college, he definitely would have considered it.

Everything, including parking, was more difficult at UF, he said.

By Florida statute, all students who are going to earn a bachelor's degree at a community college must earn an associate's degree first, Bonahue said. For SF College's $10,000 degree, students must earn an A.S. in one of the public safety disciplines or an A.A. before applying to the program. They will also need to take five required public safety prerequisite courses.

Students hoping to be eligible are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5. They must be in-state, full-time students with a record that shows they take school seriously, Bonahue said.

Students with a number of failures, retakes and withdrawals might not be eligible for the program.

"We're trying to attract a cohort of students that will be more committed," he said.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top