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2009 June 1 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Ariz. Board of Regents Investigating Lower-Priced College Education

PHOENIX (AP) — Under pressure from the state and the governor, the Arizona Board of Regents is looking at creating a lower-priced college education.

The plan could include starting a fourth state university or transforming an existing community college into a four-year school.

The concept has been considered in the past, but is taking on new urgency because of recent funding cuts to higher education and sharp tuition hikes at the three state universities — the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Ernie Calderon, incoming president of the state Board of Regents, said that “everything is on the table” over the next several months as the regents look at alternatives.

This month, the presidents of the three state universities are expected to recommend specific ways to provide more choices for lower-cost, university-quality education.

Calderon said the regents will unveil a list of options for input by Gov. Jan Brewer and the public later in the year. The regents hope to make a decision by December.

Tuition costs and what majors would be offered have not been worked out.

The state’s three universities educate about 122,500 students a year.

Community colleges offer certificates and two-year degrees with some programs allowing students to earn up to three years’ worth of credits before transferring to universities. Community colleges don’t offer four-year degrees, and efforts to change state law to allow them to do so have been unsuccessful.

Rep. Rich Crandall, Republican chairman of the state House Education Committee, said he has been approached by Maricopa Community Colleges about the idea of creating a “junior-senior college.”

Crandall said it’s possible all the ideas will work. ``It would be wonderful if we thought that big,’’ he said. “We’ll have to see what happens.” 

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