Now that Arizona has passed measures to attract new companies into our state, we must ensure that residents are qualified to fill the high-wage jobs that relocate here. Arizona’s universities and community colleges are working together in unprecedented ways to maximize resources, serve more students, and efficiently produce more college graduates who are qualified to hold those jobs.
Currently, Arizona ranks last among states for our college-going rate because only half of our high school seniors pursue any additional education after graduation — be it technical training, certificates, associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. If this concerning trend is not reversed, our economic future looks grim. We believe that states leading in college degree production will have the most robust and sustainable economic growth.
In Arizona, there is significant collaboration underway between our community colleges and universities through a project called “Getting AHEAD — Access to Higher Education and Degrees.” We are aggressively developing more degree pathways that allow students to begin coursework toward a four-year degree at a community college, and sometimes complete that degree, without relocating to one of the main state university campuses in Flagstaff, Tempe or Tucson. Currently, there are approximately 1,100 bachelor’s degree pathway agreements between Arizona’s public community colleges and universities serving nearly 12,000 students.
While students have always been able to transfer from a community college to a university, the partnerships we’re describing are a result of a focused, intensive effort between the two higher education sectors to provide more affordable, accessible options for students and increase degree completion. In many cases, students, enrolled in one of the pathways follow a prescribed set of coursework from start to finish, helping to prevent the loss of time or tuition dollars on courses that don’t apply to their degree. Students enrolled in these pathway programs can also save 15-50 percent off the price that university freshman pay at one of the main university campuses.
This consensus to partner in such a way under
Getting AHEAD is born from a realization that in order to increase student success and maximize the productivity potential of our institutions, the state’s community colleges and universities must work together in new and innovative ways.
We also recognize that the greatest cost of a college degree is not tuition; rather for today’s student, it is the cost of living while going to school. Therefore, our higher education systems must adapt if we are to facilitate greater numbers of state residents achieving their college dreams.
With state and student dollars at a premium, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to fundamentally shift the way Arizona’s public higher education system operates. We are removing barriers that once kept students from efficiently transferring between community colleges and universities.
Through careful collaboration and consistent cross-talk among the many, varied community stakeholders, we are beginning to see the fruits of our labor. The number of community college students transferring to a university is up 13 percent over the past four years and the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded from the university system has increased approximately 14.5 percent over that same time period.
Partnerships between universities and community colleges are pushing more students through the post-secondary pipeline and developing the diverse, highly-educated workforce Arizona needs.
— Rufus Glasper is chancellor of the Maricopa County Community Colleges District. Fred DuVal is vice chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. Both serve as co-chairs of Getting AHEAD.