Young high school students can begin to look forward to a new four-year college option as Arizona community colleges eye a 2023 launch date to begin offering more complex degrees.
On May 4, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed bill Senate Bill 1453 that allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees.
The bill adds Arizona to the 23 other states that allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in certain circumstances. According to the text of the bill there is criteria the programs that the colleges offer have to meet.
They are workforce need, student demand, financial analysis that shows short-term and long-term impacts to initiate and sustain the program, whether it would unnecessarily duplicate programs, and the ability the community college has to support the program.
The Maricopa County Community College District is, according to Chief Communication Officer Matt Hasson, “very excited about this, this is historic for the state of Arizona and most importantly this is a big step forward for our community.”
The district is looking at fall of 2023 to begin enrolling into their four-year degree programs.
According to Hasson there is quite a bit of work that needs to be done in order to offer the four-year degree which is why it will take the district a couple years. The first step is for their system to identify, select and then build the curriculum for the four-year degree programs.
Then they have to work with the Higher Learning Commission to get the curriculum approved. Once that process is done then they can begin the process of enrollment and starting the programs.
“As easy as that was for me to say there is quite a bit of work to get to that point, the moment this legislation was passed and the law was done our teams began networks, so we are moving pretty quickly now,” said Hasson.
The district is extremely excited about the bill. Hasson said, “it’s 25 years in the making and again this [is] about hope and opportunity for our community and giving affordable options.”
This bill opens the aperture up and allow for more people to obtain four-year degrees who previously would not have that access.
Hasson believes this is an enormous opportunity for Arizona, for the state’s economy, and for families across the state.
“Whether you’re looking for a certificate, for credentials, for a two-year degree, for a four-year degree, this just opens the options up for our state and this just a win-win for the entire community and for families,” said Hasson.
Mesa Community College as a part of the Maricopa County Community College District will be implementing the four-year degree program.
The college in addition to working with the district to determine which four-year degrees to offer, will seek review and guidance from the Higher Learning Commission to ensure the quality and integrity of the programming.
“I encourage individuals to start their higher education journey at a community college now — to be positioned to take the upper division courses in 2023 whether at a community college or a university,” said Mesa Community College interim President Lori Berquam.
The college has been developing pathway maps, in collaboration with their university partners, this is to aid their students in selecting courses that meet transfer requirements at state universities. This enables students to earn associate’s degree recognized by their transfer institution while saving time and precious dollars.
Berquam said, “guided Pathways help students identify their educational and career goals, determine their needs, and then chart a clear coherent pathway to timely goal completion.”
Editor’s Note: Kylie Werner is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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