Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Arizona Higher Ed System Making Push to Offer Community College Baccalaureates

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Arizona Higher Ed System Making Push to Offer Community College Baccalaureates

Article excerpt

PHOENIX

After holding public hearings across the state, legislators are again taking up proposals to significantly reshuffle Arizona's higher education system, apparently starting with a controversial proposal to allow at least some community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

A legislator who led an unsuccessful push for four-year degree authority for community colleges during the 2005 session says she'll reintroduce a version of the proposal early in the 2006 session, which started last month.

Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, commented after the final meeting of a HouseSenate task three that held 14 hearings around Arizona in recent months to foster discussion on higher education concerns.

At the conclusion of its three-hour meeting, the committee agreed only that lawmakers should continue to study numerous aspects of higher education, including how to improve financial aid and whether the state board of regents should oversee community colleges as well as universities.

However, Knaperek says it's clear to many legislators that geographical and cost factors make availability and affordability of higher education a major problem to many Arizonans, particularly those living in rural areas distant from the main university campuses in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff:

"We need to have more options of everything," she says.

But even some lawmakers on the task force aren't in agreement on sweeping, far-ranging changes.

"This is macro, macro," says Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, of Knaperek's approach. "I prefer little baby steps."

University officials voiced strong reservations about the four-year degree proposal which lawmakers considered earlier this year, and the universities' supporters succeeded in halting that bill's progress, partly by arguing that it would reduce the universities' own efforts to serve locations other than their main campuses. …

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