By Brianna Hamilton
On Monday, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill, SB1453, sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer and Rep. Becky Nutt, which allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees.
Supporters say the legislation will drive the cost of higher education lower, while detractors fear it will force the community colleges to raise taxes to afford the additional costs associated with offering 4-year degrees.
Ducey said the legislation paves “the way for Arizona’s current and future workforces and expanding opportunities for populations that are historically underrepresented in higher education.
“Arizona’s community colleges play a critical role in supporting students of all ages and equipping our workforce with skills and resources,” said Ducey in a press release. “Arizona is a school choice state, and today’s action is school choice for higher education. This is ‘Opportunity for All’ in action. It will allow students even more opportunities as they strengthen their education and expand their employment opportunities. Thank you to Senator Paul Boyer and Representative Becky Nutt for leading on legislation that supports Arizona’s higher education students and our talented workforce.”
I’d like to thank Gov. @dougducey for signing #SB1453. Rep. @beckynutt3 & Sen. @PaulDBoyer worked hard to get this across the finish line and accomplished something that has been attempted for decades! Kudos to them and all of the other legislators of the past who worked on this! https://t.co/mnckwSUNi1
— T.J. Shope (@TJShopeforAZ) May 4, 2021
“Today’s legislation will help people in every corner of our state,” said Nutt, who helped spearhead these efforts. “Arizona has been a national leader in school choice for many years, and allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees will take a step further in meeting the needs of adult students.”
While the legislation is seen as necessary in the rural areas Nutt represents, those in urban centers with easy access to State universities are concerned the lower cost of a 4-year degree will steer students away from the hard-to-fill trade-type careers.
The legislation will align Arizona with 23 other states, including all neighboring states, to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in limited circumstances.
The signing of #SB1453 by Governor @dougducey marks a monumental day for our System. As a leader in #HigherEd and economic engine, our ability to offer students 4-year degrees will support workforce needs while creating affordable education.
— Maricopa Community Colleges (@mcccd) May 4, 2021
There are protections against the unwarranted expansion of courses. Under the legislation, community colleges opting to offer baccalaureate degrees must approve each program based on specific criteria, including workforce need, financial and administrative analysis of the feasibility of offering the program, and mitigating duplication.
“At Eastern Arizona College, we’re ready to support and work with students who want to get a higher education and build a career,” said Eastern Arizona College President Todd Haynie in a press release. “The legislation signed by Governor Ducey provides an accessible way for Arizona students to continue their education and build a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. When community colleges offer four-year degrees, it opens up opportunities for more students of all ages and backgrounds. Thank you to everyone who supported this bill.”