Maricopa Community Colleges plan to develop a handful of bachelor’s degree programs following a new state law that allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees.
The state’s largest community college district, which includes 10 Phoenix-area colleges, on Wednesday announced plans to launch its first bachelor’s degrees in programs such as information technology, administration of public safety, behavioral health sciences and education.
Study programs are expected to begin in fall 2023, pending approval.
Officials from Maricopa community colleges said they were working on developing diplomas that meet the guidelines of the new legislation. Senate Bill 1453, which passed earlier this year, requires community colleges wishing to offer four-year degrees to demonstrate the workforce needs in the region and student demand.
Study programs should also avoid unnecessarily duplicating the programs of other Arizona higher education institutions, as required by law.
The opportunity to offer affordable bachelor’s degrees at community colleges is a “great historic moment,” said Helice Agria, Maricopa’s district faculty director for academic affairs, which coordinates the efforts of the four-year degree program. years in the district.
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What programs are planned?
The four-year degrees planned for Maricopa Community Colleges include:
- Bachelor of Applied Science, Programming and Data Analysis: Mesa Community College.
- BAS, computer science: Estrella Mountain Community College, Phoenix College.
- BAS, Public Security Administration: Phoenix College, Rio Salado College.
- BAS, nuclear medicine technology and computed tomography: GateWay Community College.
- Bachelor of Science, Behavioral Health Sciences: South Mountain Community College.
- Bachelor of Arts, Early Childhood Education-Dual Language: Mesa Community College.
- BA, Education, dual certification in elementary / special education: Glendale Community College, Paradise Valley Community College, Rio Salado College.
District officials will spend the next year designing the courses and requirements for each degree.
“It’s a big step to name them, but it’s a lot more work to actually build them,” Agria said.
All of the selected fields already exist as associate’s degrees or certificate programs, she said. This means there is an integrated pipeline of students who could advance to the four-year degree, she said.
The district has prioritized programs in “key industrial sectors” that were discussed during the legislative process, such as education, health care, information technology and public security administration, account given the workforce needs and the focus of lawmakers who represent the community, Agria said.
“We really believe that the selections we made are truly the best first options for our colleges and communities.”
Programs still need to receive district board approval, expected no later than August 2022, and then need to be accredited by the Higher Education Commission, she said.
The district plans to approve programs for fall 2023, with enrollment starting in spring 2023.
Other four-year degrees in “high-demand industrial sectors” in the coming years could include nursing and respiratory care, according to the district.
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Objective: affordable bachelor’s degrees
College officials said the programs will be affordable, “at less than a third of university tuition.” Classes will be tailored to where the students live and will be flexible in terms of modalities, depending on the district.
District officials said these programs would provide four-year degree opportunities for community college students who would typically not transfer to a university after graduating with their two-year degrees, either because of money, l ‘location or desire for a unique workforce program.
Maricopa Community Colleges is the largest provider of workforce development in Arizona, as well as the largest provider of transfer students to state universities. Registrations were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and this fall still remains below fall 2019 levels.
If this transition helps increase registrations, “wonderful,” Agria said. But she said that was not the main goal.
The reason the district will be offering four-year degrees and the reason it has been calling for it for so long is to be able to “provide affordable baccalaureate opportunities for our communities,” Agria said.
Maricopa Community Colleges will continue to work with Arizona universities to transfer students from community colleges to universities, according to the district.
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New state law for four-year degrees
Governor Doug Ducey enacted legislation in May allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees.
All Arizona community colleges can begin providing four-year degrees. But Maricopa and Pima County Community College Districts must prove that the programs would not duplicate those already in existence at Arizona State University or the University of Arizona.
These college programs will start small, by law. For the first four years of a program, bachelor’s degrees must represent less than 5% of the total number of degrees offered. After that, the limit is 10% degrees.
Tuition per credit hour for the third and fourth years of a bachelor’s degree program cannot exceed 150% of the tuition fee of any other district program, by law.
Ducey, in a statement on signing the bill, said the new law would help “retrain and develop Arizona’s workforce” to meet economic needs and increase prosperity.
“Arizona community colleges play a vital role in supporting students of all ages and in equipping our workforce with skills and resources,” said the governor. “Arizona is a state of school choice, and today’s action is a school choice for higher education. It is ‘Opportunity for All’ in action.”
The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, opposed the bill and pushed community college students to earn a bachelor’s degree as they now do by transferring to universities. .
Community colleges located near public universities must notify the public university of study plans before submitting them to the community college district council. The university can provide a written response to the district council, but cannot prevent a community college from offering a program.
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