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Arizona is proud of its three public universities, which have grown as the state’s population has boomed. They all do research, which gives them prestige but also adds to the cost of tuition. That tuition is much higher than it was a couple of decades ago.

Meanwhile, many students opt for education at Arizona’s many community colleges, which have lower tuition and often provide an opportunity for study while the enrollees live with their parents. Some of the students then go on to a university or other college, and some of the community colleges, including the one in Pinal County, house university programs. Other students receive the training, degree or certificate they need for a career without going on.

A natural progression to the situation would be for the community colleges, including Pinal’s Central Arizona College, to offer four-year degrees themselves. They might set tuition at a higher rate for upper division courses, but the potential for more affordability seems likely.

The Arizona House Education Committee last week passed HB 2790, which would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees. Perhaps not surprisingly, the three universities and the Board of Regents, which oversees them, were opposed. The concept seems worthy of bipartisan support, but Democrats voted no, although one member took a pass and didn’t vote. The objection seemed to be over duplication, although it is obvious that what higher education needs is competition.

In these days of huge advancements in technology, higher education certainly should be delivered more efficiently at a lower cost. Providing degrees closer to home on smaller campuses is desirable, and CAC and other community colleges are spread out in various communities close to students.

This is an idea that has been talked about for years. Now there is a movement to allow it without increasing taxes or taking a chunk of the state’s general fund. Approval of this bill would be a win-win for all of Arizona.

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