PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill, SB1453, allowing community colleges to offer limited four-year university courses.
The governor’s signature is the culmination of years of effort by advocates who have worked to find alternatives to what critics say is the expense for residents to earn four-year degrees at Arizona’s three universities.
“We think about it all the time and how much it will cost when they reach adulthood,” said Christa Jones.
Jones is a mother of three and knows firsthand what her children will face when it comes time to think about going to college.
“Since we both paid for our own college, it took us many years to pay that debt and that was always something that hung over our heads,” said Jones.
Like so many college students with rising debts, life after school is lagging behind and is a concern that Arizona lawmakers want to alleviate.
“Anything we can do to educate our children and make these costs go down for them, so that they don’t have to spend their entire lives trying to repay the debt they have already created, would be wonderful,” said Jones.
“Arizona community colleges play a key role in supporting students of all ages and equipping our workforce with skills and resources. Arizona is a state of school choice and today’s action is the choice of school for higher education, “said Governor Ducey in a statement.
Arizona is a state of school choice, and today’s action is the choice of school for higher education. This is the ‘Opportunity for All’ in action. This will allow students to have even more opportunities as they strengthen their education and expand their employment opportunities. 3 /
– Doug Ducey (@dougducey) May 4, 2021
With this new law, community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees must meet a set of specific criteria, including an analysis of the feasibility of offering such a program, need for workforce and more.
“Allowing community colleges in our state to offer four-year courses will make higher education much more accessible and accessible to the inhabitants of Arizonos,” said state deputy Becky Nutt (R) Clifton-District 14.
Representative Nutt is the author of the bill and a longtime supporter who allows community colleges to offer four-year courses. Its district covers much of Greenlee, Graham and Cochise counties.
“Arizonans, especially those in rural, low-income and middle-class communities, will have more opportunities to help achieve educational and professional goals,” said Nutt.
Community colleges will be limited in the four-year degree programs they will be able to offer, but the cost will be significantly cheaper than university tuition.
For example, the average tuition within the state at Arizona State University is between $ 9,000 and $ 12,000. At Maricopa County Community College, tuition for the first two years is limited to $ 1,020 per semester for 15 credit hours. The project allows for a 150% increase in tuition over the past two years or just over $ 3,000 per semester.
“This is not an opportunity for community colleges to become the next university in the state of Arizona. It will really focus on an area where the demand is not being met,” said community college district chancellor of Maricopa County, Dr Steven Gonzales. “For the Community Colleges of Maricopa, I was able to see us immediately focusing on the areas of IT, nursing, health, police and firefighters, and even teacher training.”
Dr. Gonzales said it would make Arizona the 24th state in the U.S. to offer this.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” explained Dr. Gonzales. “The bylaws would require us to carry out some analyzes and to be able to prove to our local board of directors that these programs are really sought after and do not compete with our universities. We would notify our universities of the courses we plan to offer and then the internal work begins where the development of the curriculum, so, of course we would involve our faculty and staff to develop this. These would be programs accredited by the higher education commission that currently accredits the work we already do, so in total, this is equivalent to about a year and a half of work Our goal is that, in the fall of 2023, you will see the community colleges of Maricopa offering their first bachelor’s degree across the county. “
A spokesman for Pima Community College told ABC15’s sister station KGUN9 that they have no plans to offer four-year courses. The CCP cited its strong partnership with Arizona State University, allowing for simple transitions and transfers through the MyPath2ASU program.