Bill would allow community colleges in Arizona to grant 4-year degrees

The price of college tuition is on the rise, and that can make getting a four-year degree out-of-reach for many people.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2018-2019 academic year, the average cost of tuition for a year is over $12,000.

In Arizona, in-state tuition for students at Arizona State University (ASU) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) are slightly less.

Meanwhile, figures from show the average college student will graduate with $37,000 worth of debt

Now, supporters of a new bill being considered at the Arizona State Legislature say it will take a big financial burden off students.

If HB 2790 passed, community colleges in Arizona will be allowed to offer four-year degree programs.

“We think it is going to help tremendously. Community College is a point of access for folks that don't see themselves as a college-bound individuals, or are really limited economically,” said Darcy Renfro, Chief Workforce and Economic Development Officer for Maricopa County Community College District.

Currently, community colleges are limited to two-year degrees and associate’s degrees. Supporters say instead of transferring to universities, students could pursue certain areas of study at a dramatically reduced cost.

“A Bachelor’s Degree could be available for as little as $10,000,” said Renfro.

Programs could include nursing, dental hygienists, and teaching. Some students are hesitant, because with a university experience, they say students can get a new world experience.

“Staying in one place makes you content or comfortable, versus here for two years then transfer, you are in a different culture and setting,” said Charlene White, who attends Phoenix College.

Others, however, say they are willing to do anything to save.

“I think that sounds pretty good, as a low-income student. I try to get scholarships,” said one student.

If the bill is passed, it will go to the State Senate.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Board of Regents has issued a statement on the bill, which reads:

"At its recent board meeting, with some discussion about the recognized need to support attainment and to expand existing degree opportunities beyond existing statewide sites, the board chose to urge study of the continuing needs and oppose at this time HB 2790.

Degree completion is available on-site on select community college campuses. Degree options offered by the universities are identified in collaboration with community colleges through student demand and community and business market needs. For example, at Eastern Arizona College, two of the universities are offering programs on-site: ASU offers nursing and NAU offers education through the Teachers Academy."