The University of Arizona

UA Offers Lower-Cost Degree Options for Students

By Jennifer Fitzenberger, February 17, 2011

The Arizona Board of Regents today heard from the university presidents about progress they've made toward offering lower-cost options for Arizona students to obtain a bachelor's degree.

TEMPE, Ariz. – The Arizona Board of Regents today received reports from Arizona's public university presidents on the significant progress they've made since 2008 to provide new, low-cost options for Arizona students to obtain a bachelor's degree.

Three years ago, ABOR adopted a long-term strategic plan to nearly double the number of baccalaureate degrees the system produces by 2020. A key step in achieving that goal is providing more low-cost access points for students across the state to obtain a degree. 

ABOR charged each university president with finding new, innovative ways to reach more students at a lower cost in order to meet the 2020 goal.

Gov. Jan Brewer also has made expanding the number of low-cost bachelor's degree options available to students a priority in her "Four Cornerstones of Reform" 2011 policy agenda.

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.
"The universities have made tremendous progress on developing new academic delivery models to educate more students at a lower price point in a short period of time," said ABOR chairwoman Anne Mariucci. 

"These options give students greater flexibility on where to get a degree and how much to pay while still walking away with high-quality university credentials," she said. "Maintaining existing low-cost models and deploying even more in the future will be standard practice for the Enterprise as we navigate the challenge of educating larger numbers of students with dwindling state resources."

The university system's move to an Enterprise model calls for an increase and acceleration of new bachelor's degree pathways – online learning, joint admissions programs with community colleges and regional universities around the state – to reach the national average for a state's population with a bachelor's degree, provide the educated workforce needed to meet workforce projections and stimulate demand for higher-paying jobs in Arizona. 

Much of the planning for those programs began several years ago under the board's system architecture reform plans.

"Arizona is unique in that it has three prestigious research-oriented universities and a first-rate community college system, but no state college system that typically offers degrees at a price point in between the former two," said Fred DuVal, ABOR vice chairman. 

"Through our reform efforts, we are creating a system akin to a state college system where students will have a multitude of degree options at a wide variety of price points to suit their needs," he said. "Now more than ever before students can seamlessly transfer from a community college into a university, and we as a system are able to serve more students – and the state – more cost effectively and efficiently."

Arizona's higher education reform efforts to provide more low-cost options for students has received national attention and funding. 

In 2009, the Lumina Foundation for Education gave Arizona a $1.5 million grant to implement a multi-year initiative that includes expanding lower-cost options for delivering bachelor's degree programs. That initiative has been formally named Getting AHEAD – Access to Higher Education and Degrees – and is co-chaired by regent DuVal and Maricopa Community Colleges District Chancellor Rufus Glasper.

Lower-cost options at the University of Arizona include:

  • 71 bachelor's degree pathways between the UA and six community college districts.
  • 114 additional joint UA and community college degree programs are in development.
  • A new UA-Pima Community College partnership offers students a four-year tuition savings of 37-50 percent versus attending the UA main campus exclusively.
  • More than 500 students are served through joint UA-community college programs.

Also on Thursday, regents approved the renewal of a 10-year lease for nearly 200 acres of state trust land at Tumamoc Hill for desert plant and wildlife ecology. Tumamoc Hill is a world-renowned desert research site administered by the UA since 1960.

The two-day regents meeting continues Friday at Arizona State University. Agenda items include:

  • The board will receive summaries of reports regarding the academic preparation of Arizona high school graduates for admission to the universities, degrees and majors, and enrollment.
  • Regents will be asked to approve the universities' fiscal year 2010 Student Financial Aid Report and fiscal year 2011 and 2012 financial aid plans.