With student loan debt topping credit card debt, and the job market still very weak, many Americans are reconsidering  thier education options.

Via Instapundit: A New York Times piece by Arthur C. Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute and a former professor at Syracuse University) takes a look at the move toward $10,000 college degrees and thinks its a good one.

MUCH is being written about the preposterously high cost of college. The median inflation-adjusted household income fell by 7 percent between 2006 and 2011, while the average real tuition at public four-year colleges increased over that period by over 18 percent. Meanwhile, the average tuition for just one year at a four-year private university in 2011 was almost $33,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. College tuition has increased at twice the rate of health care costs over the past 25 years.

Ballooning student loan debt, an impending college bubble, and a return on the bachelor’s degree that is flat or falling: all these things scream out for entrepreneurial solutions.

One idea gaining currency is the $10,000 college degree — the so-called 10K-B.A. — which apparently was inspired by a challenge to educators from Bill Gates, and has recently led to efforts to make it a reality by governors in Texas, Florida and Wisconsin, as well as by a state assemblyman in California.

Most 10K-B.A. proposals rethink the costliest part of higher education — the traditional classroom teaching. Predictably, this means a reliance on online and distance-learning alternatives. And just as predictably, this has stimulated antibodies to unconventional modes of learning. Some critics see it as an invitation to charlatans and diploma mills. Even supporters often suggest that this is just an idea to give poor people marginally better life opportunities.

As Darryl Tippens, the provost of Pepperdine University, recently put it, “No PowerPoint presentation or elegant online lecture can make up for the surprise, the frisson, the spontaneous give-and-take of a spirited, open-ended dialogue with another person.” And what happens when you excise those frissons? In the words of the president of one university faculty association, “You’re going to be awarding degrees that are worthless to people.”

I disagree. I possess a 10K-B.A., which I got way back in 1994. And it was the most important intellectual and career move I ever made.

Interestingly, Brooks concludes that the push for a $10,000 is not based on finances alone:

In the end, however, the case for the 10K-B.A. is primarily moral, not financial. The entrepreneurs who see a way for millions to go to college affordably are the ones who understand the American dream. That dream is the opportunity to build a life through earned success. That starts with education.