Arizona House Passes Bill Allowing Community Colleges to Offer 4-year Degree Programs

By Kevin Murphy

On February 22, the Arizona House passed HB2523 by a vote of 57-3, which would allow community colleges to offer 4 year degrees. This is the first time ever that a bill advocating for four-year degrees being offered at community colleges has passed the Arizona House.

If passed in the State Senate, the bill would require community colleges interested in offering 4 year degrees to conduct multi-year studies funded by local tax revenues to determine if they would be eligible to hire the required faculty and sustain four-year programs.

While other state colleges have backed the bill going forward, Pima Community College has not advocated for or against it.

Libby Howell, the Executive Director/Media, Community, and Government Relations at Pima Community College, said that the college is not currently planning on offering four year degrees if bill HB2523 passes the State Senate.

PCC has had no role in advocating for this bill, and at this time, we have no interest in offering four-year degrees,” Howell Said.  “PCC feels our lane is secure in offering AA degrees, transfer credits, and workforce training. Also, we have excellent relationships with the state’s baccalaureate institutions.  However, we have decided to remain neutral on this legislation out of respect for the other community colleges who are advocating for it.”

The bill is the culmination of years of work by advocates who say that attaining four-year bachelor’s degrees at Arizona’s three state universities is too expensive and difficult for residents.

The Arizona Board of Regents agreed not to oppose the bill as long as specific stipulations limiting the amount of four year degrees offered by community colleges were placed in the bill, which the colleges involved in the bill agreed upon. 

The bill defines that approved colleges can offer no more than 10 % four-year degrees of total degrees offered for the first four years, capped off at 15 % at five years and beyond.

The costs for junior and senior tuition cannot exceed 150% of what colleges normally charge for other programs, which would make attaining a four-year degree at a college much more affordable than at state universities.

As Pima Community College remains neutral on HB2523, advocates for the bill await for the measure to go before the Senate.