College Guide


February 21, 2011 10:00 AM Arizona’s Low-Cost College Plan

By Daniel Luzer

In 2008 the Arizona board of regents decided that the state needed a lot more people with bachelor’s degrees in the future. So it told the presidents of Arizona state colleges to come up with some ways of creating inexpensive degrees. On Thursday the presidents reported on their progress.

According to a press release by the University of Arizona:

System-wide, there currently are 1,162 bachelor’s degree pathway programs between Arizona’s community colleges and universities. Students in select pathway programs can pay up to 50 percent less in tuition than what they would pay if they completed their four-year degree on one of the main campuses of the universities.
Also, the universities offer lower tuition options at extended campus sites and through accelerated and online degree programs. More than 11,000 students across Arizona are taking advantage of these low-cost options.

What’s odd about this particular strategy is that state universities are themselves supposed to be the low cost way to get a bachelor’s degree. In-state tuition at the University of Arizona, however, is now more than $8,000 a year.

Since the state evidently has no plans to give the public college more money (which could reduce tuition), the solution appears to be to give Arizona residents some low-quality education options.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Kevin Corcoran on February 21, 2011 3:41 PM:

    What's your basis for describing the 2+2, 3+1 and online alternatives Arizona is exploring as "low-quality options"?

  • Alan on February 21, 2011 6:29 PM:

    Yeah, I think when you make a statement that something is "low-quality" you have an obligation to back that up.

  • Washington Monthly on February 21, 2011 7:07 PM:

    Both the “2+2” and “3+1” require students to spend extensive time in Arizona community colleges (I assume this is what you’re talking about). Community colleges, while often a useful entry point to higher education for many Americans, are notoriously poor are getting students through their programs on time and prepared to successfully enter bachelor’s degree programs. Online courses, similarly, are difficult to navigate, impersonal, and have not been proven to be universally good preparation for challenging traditional courses.

    The reason Arizona is considering these options is because they’re are cheap. That’s not to say that the options Arizona is considering are straight-up worthless or definitely they won’t work to create some more people with bachelor’s degrees, but it's risky; what they’re considering are certainly lower quality options than traditional four-year bachelor’s degrees.