A bill in the Arizona Legislature to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees has been blocked after pressure from the state’s three universities, which are all research institutions. That came after some support was shown, especially in the form of a 42-18 approval in the House, including backing from both caucuses. As we’ve said before, this is an idea that should become law, and perhaps it will.
Research universities provide a more expensive education for which students pay higher tuition to support the work being done at the institution. Meanwhile, the state has an extensive network of community colleges in the various counties with excellent infrastructure already built by the taxpayers. There are multiple campuses designed to be close to where students live. Pinal County is a good example of this, with five campuses and other centers for Central Arizona College. Two of these are new and some major updating has occurred in recent years for the others.
The universities traditionally are well represented at the Legislature. That keeps the money flowing. In this case, it helped the Board of Regents, which oversees and represents the universities, kill the bill. That came after the board’s president, Larry Penley, testified that no college should be able to offer any degree offered by a research university, regardless of the cost. In other words, competition is bad.
The Senate Education Committee killed the bill on the opposition of three Democrats and two Republicans, including Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, who said the issue wasn’t competition. However, Penley’s statement was clear — that’s what it is about.
It is somewhat surprising that Democrats on the committee did not support more accessibility and affordability of higher education for Arizona students. A majority of Democrats in the House did support it.
The only good thing about the demise of House Bill 2790 is that it advanced as far as it did after years of dreaming. Look for this idea to return.