A legislative panel voted Thursday to find ways to make a baccalaureate degree more accessible and affordable for Arizona students.
But the Joint Ad Hoc Task Force on Higher Education Reform sidestepped the hotbutton question of whether to let community colleges offer four-year degrees. Instead, committee members said after more than three hours of testimony — and months of hearings around the state — there are unanswered questions, ranging from standards and accreditation to whether a whole new system of governing higher education in Arizona is necessary.
Despite that, Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, cochairwoman of the panel, said she will introduce legislation for the January session to let community colleges expand beyond their two-year programs.
Knaperek said she wants a bill broader than one approved by the House last session but killed in the Senate.
That measure would have allowed some community colleges to offer four-year degrees — and only in four specified areas.
Her measure again will get a fight from the state’s three public universities as well as private colleges. Representatives from both camps said Thursday they are better situated to serve the state’s expanding demand for baccalaureate degrees.
But committee members said that still leaves the question of cost.
Thomas Henry, president of Mohave Community College, conceded community colleges would need more money to offer four-year degrees.
But he said the price still would be less than at a state university — and far cheaper than private schools.