March 15, 2005
State representatives voted Monday for a major overhaul of how higher education is offered in Arizona — or at least parts of the state.
By a vote of 31-24, the House of Representatives gave final approval to a far-reaching plan that would allow half of the community colleges in the state to begin offering at least some four-year degrees. Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, said the aim was to start small to see how the system works.
But Knaperek said the ability to offer baccalaureate degrees could be expanded statewide.
Monday’s vote on the bill, which now goes to the Senate, came over the objections of House Minority Leader Phil Lopes, D-Tucson, who said this change would lead to the destruction of the role of community colleges — to the detriment of students who depend on having easy access to twoyear degrees.
"When you add baccalaureate degrees, even a few . . . you change the mission," he said.
But Knaperek said that won’t happen.
She pointed out the law limits the four-year programs to only half of the 10 campuses of the Maricopa Community College District and half of the six in the Pima system.
And only Graham, Mohave, Navajo and Pinal community colleges will be permitted to expand; no baccalaureate degrees will be granted at Cochise, Coconino, Yavapai and Western Arizona College.
HB2079 also limits the fouryear degrees to teacher education, fire services, law enforcement and health professions.
But it also allows community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in any area where they already grant an associate’s degree if four-year programs are not available at public universities.
The measure also sets aside $5 million in scholarships for students to attend private schools.