New measure allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees - News 11's Adonis Albright finds out why AWC's against it
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Arizona's House of Representatives passed HB 2523 on Monday. It would allow community colleges across the state to provide four-year degrees.
If passed, this would be great news for those looking to continue their education without having to pay the tuition cost of a state university. However, Arizona Western College (AWC), a community college in Yuma, is opposed to the bill.
“We don’t face the same pressures that a lot of — these other rural districts face. So, let me just be really clear: Arizona Western College is delighted to continue to partner with these three state universities, and we see ourselves already as a university learning center; and Yuma will watch this grow over the next several years", said Lorraine Stofft, the Vice President of Advancement at AWC.
Behind the scenes, there's a few logistical hurdles this bill would create. If the legislation is passed by Arizona's Senate and in turn signed into law, it wouldn't go into effect right away. It would kickstart the groundwork for community colleges to implement the new programs, get them accredited, and on top of that, acquire the qualified faculty to maintain those programs.
In addition, studies need to be done to determine if the programs community colleges would be offering are redundant if they are already available elsewhere. All of that could take a couple of years to figure out.
Another big question is, what would happen if the legislation ultimately passes, and community colleges don't want to offer four-year degrees? According to the language of the bill, this would be voluntary, and up to each community college's discretion.
"There's no requirement to offer a baccalaureate degree, right? So, it doesn't compel us to have to do that... We don't want to be in competition with the universities, we do not want to set up an oppositional relationship with our university partners. We want to be collaborative and we want our students and the taxpayers in the districts that we serve to have the most efficient, the most productive pathway for whatever those higher education credentials look like", said Stofft.
AWC said they don't necessarily have a game plan in place if the bill passes, and are waiting to see what happens. The college prides itself in providing classes and certification programs specifically tailored to the needs of employers in and around Yuma County.
"We absolutely want to be the purveyor of 100 and 200 level classes. That's the role that taxpayers have already invested in, that's the role that we are prepared to maintain and grow. But we wholeheartedly appreciate our university partners' positions in the districts that we serve, and our university partners do a fantastic job of assessing need and building programs that meet local employer gaps", said Stofft.