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Ducey signs bill to allow 4-year degrees at community colleges

(Facebook Photo/Maricopa Community Colleges)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Tuesday allowing Arizona community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

Senate Bill 1453 will let community colleges offer the four-year degrees on the condition they approve individual programs based on specific criteria, including workforce need, a financial and administrative need for the program and avoiding duplication of programs.

“Arizona’s community colleges play a critical role in supporting students of all ages and equipping our workforce with skills and resources,” Ducey said in a press release. “Arizona is a school choice state and today’s action is school choice for higher education.”

Republican Rep. Paul Boyer, who introduced the bill, said he hopes the legislation will strengthen diversity and skill within the state’s workforce.

Boyer introduced the bill in late January. It passed in the House on April 22 before the Senate sent it to Ducey on April 28.

“As more and more jobs come to Arizona, we need to make sure our workforce is ready to meet the demand,” Boyer said in the release. “Community colleges equip students with much-needed skills and expanding their degree programs will benefit adult students of all ages and strengthen Arizona’s workforce.”

The bill will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

Dr. Steven Gonzales, interim chancellor of the Maricopa County Community College District, applauded the move.

“Our motivation to offer baccalaureate degrees is to better support the needs of the skilled workforce in the highest demand areas of our state in a way that is equitable, accessible and affordable for students,” Gonzales in a press release.

“This is a historic moment for higher education in Arizona, and in the coming days I will bring together the colleges and faculty to determine which programs we will advance immediately for consideration as a four-year baccalaureate program.”

Arizona is the 24th state to allow community colleges to move forward with four-year degree programs in limited circumstances.

The Arizona Board of Regents opposed the decision, saying there was no need to change the state’s higher education structure.

“There is little evidence to support the need for a substantial change in Arizona’s higher education structure,” ABOR chairman Larry Penley said in a letter. “Arizona has thoughtfully resisted the approach of Colorado and some other states with multiple higher education boards, an overall coordinating board and a variety of small, state colleges that have relatively low retention and graduation rates.

“Instead, we have vested constitutional responsibility for higher education in a single board with responsibility for a statewide perspective along with responsibility for each individual university. This is a system that is working.”

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