Getting a college degree is more important and more expensive than ever before. Community colleges play a significant role in supporting students in higher education and equipping students with the skills and resources to enter the workforce. Community colleges in Arizona can now offer four-year degrees, but what does this look like, and how does it affect our economy?
Dorn Policy Group, Inc. is one of Arizona’s top public affairs firms. We partner with organizations to ensure their business goals are met and voices are heard by Arizona’s elected officials. Read our blog post below and learn what four-year community college degrees mean for our economy.
Rules for Community Colleges Offering Four Year Degrees
In May 2021, Governor Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1453, allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees. Arizona joins 23 other states that allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees. Under the new law, community colleges offering four-year programs have several limitations, including:
- Programs must be based on workforce needs.
- The community college must run a financial and administrative analysis of offering the degree program.
- Community colleges must avoid duplicating programs offered at state schools.
These rules are meant to limit the adverse effects of the bill on traditional four-year colleges. However, the new law does not allow public universities to prevent a community college from offering a baccalaureate degree, but it does place limitations on the number of four-year degrees a community college can offer. When a new program is added at a community college, bachelor’s degrees cannot make up more than 5% of the degrees for the first four years. After four years, the program cannot offer more than 10% bachelor’s degrees.
Effect of Community Colleges on Students
At Maricopa County Community Colleges, tuition for the first two years is capped at $1,020 a semester for 15 credit hours. The new law allows for a tuition increase of 150% for the last two years. Even with this increase, tuition would total a little more than $3,000 a semester. The average in-state tuition at Arizona State University is between $9,000 and $12,000, meaning that a four-year degree at a community college would cost much less to earn. This makes higher education affordable for lower-income families and students.
The new law opens the door for better representation of minority students in higher education. Maricopa Community College District Interim Chancellor Steven Gonzales said, “more students of color start at community colleges than anywhere else in higher education.” These students will sometimes transfer to four-year colleges, but oftentimes this is not an easy transition. The new law may also increase equity and access to more Arizonans who wish to further their education.
How This Affects the Economy
Maricopa Community Colleges can enroll students in four-year programs as early as fall 2023. The Governor’s Office released a statement that this bill is “an important and timely shift to reskill and upskill Arizona’s workforce to meet the needs of the growing economy and provide a pathway to economic prosperity for more Arizonans.” More four-year degrees should increase graduation rates and expand the skill set of Arizona’s workforce. This will be especially beneficial to high-need industries as many community colleges will offer programs in fields like health care, information technology, and education.
Dorn Policy Group, Inc. Advocates for Arizona
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