The state's universities are continuing their drive to offer lower-cost options for Arizona students to complete their degrees, school leaders said Thursday.
The three university presidents and other administrators gave an update to their progress during the first day of a two-day Arizona Board of Regents meeting being held at ASU.
The initiatives range from partnerships with community colleges to satellite sites where students can complete their undergraduate degrees to changes in how classes are delivered.
In the East Valley, those partnerships include Maricopa Community Colleges. Arizona State University alone has more than 3,600 students enrolled in its community college partnership, including 900 seeking an education in nursing, the university reported.
In addition, beginning in 2012, students at ASU will have the chance to complete their degree quicker - thus saving money - through accelerated classes.
ASU president Michael Crow said the calendar plan is a "profound change" to how education will be delivered and wasn't even on the radar when the low-cost initiative was started.
"In my nine years in office, that's the single most important thing we've done to date. That's the single most important innovation in my experience at the university," he said.
The sticker price for students in the traditional program is about $29,000 for eight semesters compared to the accelerated program, which could cost students between $18,000 and $22,800 if they finish in five or six semesters.
Crow said students actually pay far less than that because of financial aid, noting that the number of students qualifying for Pell Grants has doubled at ASU in the last eight years.
Elizabeth "Betty" Capaldi, ASU provost and executive vice president, said another East Valley low-cost option could be available at ASU Polytechnic if a tuition plan is approved later this spring. The plan would mean lower-division classes at the Mesa campus would cost about 25 percent less than the main campus.
In additional, Crow announced the creation of Colleges@ASU in Lake Havasu. Students enrolled at the campus, which is not open yet, will pay 18 percent less than their counterparts at Tempe's main campus.
Crow said ASU is seeking similar partnerships in other communities, where the building cost to ASU will be zero because of each community's contribution, but acknowledged it's taking more time than originally planned.
Prior to the discussion about the low-cost options, students protested proposed policy changes in the way tuition is set at Arizona's universities.
The students voiced their opinions during a call for the public to speak, but after the last student spoke, many laid down on the ground or across the Regents' conference table, not moving until security was called.
The incident only lasted about a minute.
Danielle Bäck, a student at ASU, sent out a press release prior to the meeting stating there will be "death" of public education if the policies are approved.
"We, the students, are protesting against the purposeful exclusion of the student voice in ABOR decision making, the intolerable and damaging cuts to public education, and the privatization of education. We demand that the student voice be heard in the educational decision-making process and tuition that is as free as possible," the statement read.
The board did not vote on the policy changes after much discussion. The matter will come up again in April.