Lower-cost College Education

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Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderon discusses ideas for a cheaper alternative to the traditional four-year degree from one of Arizona’s three state universities.

TED SIMONS: Imagine having a coupon for 60% off a university education in Arizona. A proposal by the president of the Arizona Board of Regents would have that effect for certain majors. Regent president Ernest Calderon is proposing a program be established to allow students to receive a bachelor's degree with expanded collaboration with community colleges. Here now to talk about the plan is regent president Ernest Calderon. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.
ERNEST CALDERON: Thanks for having me, Ted.
TED SIMONS: Get into detail here. Explain what you're talking about and how the collaboration would work.
ERNEST CALDERON: I'm thrilled that we're having a discussion on this, because it really is only an idea, but it's an idea that's loosely patterned on the success that they've had in Colorado with Regis College. Regis is a private jesuit school, they have put together these three plus one, or they call it A to B, associates to bachelor's degree program. What it means is this -- when a student is in high school, they would pick whatever university in Arizona they wanted to attend. The university would then say to them you need to pick up six hours in math or science and they would prescribe the hours and the courses the students would need to take. The students would satisfy that either through an advanced placement test or taking a course through a community college while they're in high school. They would then once they satisfy that, tell the university show the university that they had successfully completed it. The university would then assign them to a community college and they would go and attend the community college for that freshman year at community college rates. They would have no electives. They would have no wiggle room. They'd have to complete a prescribed curriculum that the community college will provide them. Same thing would happen in year two. They go to the same community college as prescribed by the university and they would complete the rigid curriculum. In year three rather than transfer to the university even though they were already admitted to the university they would stay at that community college and that year it would be the university that was in charge of the instruction of that curriculum and once again it would be a prescribed curriculum. The community college could use their resources, capital and human, in order to deliver those services, but if the university wasn't satisfied that the faculty was adequate or the laboratories weren't sufficient, the community college could buy that from the university. Once again year three the student only pays a community college tuition. Year four comes sticker shock, the student then goes to the university that first admitted them way back when they were a senior in high school, pays the full tuition of whatever it is that year, once again no wiggle room in the curriculum. They have to take the prescribed courses and at the end of that year, a select number of bachelor's degrees, they would get the bachelor's degree. All this time year one, they would pay let's say it's $75 a credit hour, they would pay, you know, 2200 bucks for the tuition. Year two, 2200 bucks for the tuition, year three, 2200 bucks for the tuition, year four, 7,600. So you can see how there's the savings all the way along.
TED SIMONS: How do you make sure the kid that goes 3-1 through that process should be adopted? How do you make sure that that degree isn't looked any lesser upon than the kid who goes all four years in a university?
ERNEST CALDERON: The university would guarantee it. First of all the student would not be getting the bachelor's degree from an unknown entity. Something that was a community college that just became the college of some sort. They would receive a degree from a well-known branded university, one of our three universities, all three were founded in the 1800s. All three are very well respected nationally. The brand would guarantee it. So it would be the university that would have to ensure that the community college in years one and year two would provide quality education and it would be the university to also ensure in year three that their curriculum was followed. All of this would be done in conjunction with the community college. In planning with them, it would be a win-win. Community colleges would get a third year of students that they wouldn't normally get. Community colleges could then at the beginning of the equation tell the universities we need enrollment at Phoenix College, so we want you to place your students that go through your three plus one at Phoenix College.
TED SIMONS: And that sounds a little - that third year sounds problematic. How do you convince universities that you've got folks that are capable, more than capable on campus, Tempe, Phoenix, east west, for these third year students but instead we're going to use those resources overlapping, duplicating whatever the case may be for some community colleges? It sounds like there might be a money problem, resource problem, am I wrong?
ERNEST CALDERON: You're not wrong. We're only wrong if we look at this being a university centric plan. What I'm suggesting is that we make it a customer centric plan. We say universities, yes, this is going to affect your revenue stream. But you need to know Arizonans are less concerned with the revenue stream than they are concerned about getting accessible affordable education. And once again, this is only in a limited number of majors and it would be a finite number of students. Arizona we're not having a problem increasing enrollment. We're a growing state. So this would only be one option of many options of providing greater accessibility.
TED SIMONS: What about the idea that it's not university centric, but it is university controlled in the sense that the collaboration is there, why not just open the thing wide open, let the universities do what they do, get some independent colleges out there for competition and see what comes what may?
ERNEST CALDERON: I'm totally in favor of independent colleges coming in to Arizona. The more the merrier. We have to double our production of bachelor's degrees by 2020. At this rate with the lack of funding, lack of support for higher education, it's a daunting task. The more the merrier, that's true. Let's bring in as many private colleges as possible. That would be helpful.
TED SIMONS: As far as universities are concerned, is there a will to lose? Obviously there's still a collaboration, so there's still control there, but not as much, and you mentioned per student funding ratios and these sorts of things, referred to it at least. Are the universities going to be willing to go along with something like this?
ERNEST CALDERON: I want to say this as diplomatically as I can. I'm very proud of the university system. I'm very proud of the people who have made it a great success, but this is a policy issue for the Board of regents, and it's time for the board of regents and I think you've seen this in the last month or two, to step up and direct the universities to do some things that -- to make them more accessible. Michael Crow much to his credit in Arizona State is already penciling things out, new innovations, he'll take this idea and I'm sure he'll metamorphosize it into something different, but it might be better. It's time to direct the universities to do some things not built on 1950s or 1960s model but do something built on a new model. For example this whole idea of seat time, you have to be in a seat on campus, it's antiquated. Look at the success the University of Phoenix has had with adult education. Why can't we allow Ted Simons, who's been a draftsman for 20 years but doesn't have a bachelor's degree, to test out of the math that he would take if he had to go in and sit in a class for two years to prove to somebody that he knows the math that he's been living daily. We should have competency examinations so that Ted the draftsman could take the competency exam, pass it, maybe pick up 12 hours over because of his knowledge, then take the next highest level the university course in the same subject, pass that, which shows the doubters out there that he can be a good classroom student and instead of getting three hours he gets 15 hours. If he does that in a couple of disciplines, that's a year of college that's saved. We have to think outside the box and make it more accessible for the adult learner, for people that don't want the big athletic program as part of their college experience.
TED SIMONS: Which brings up the last question, will universities and community colleges be able to not only work outside the box, but collaborate, share, I mean, there's so many different questions here, so many folks have to get along. There's so many concerns, can they do it?
ERNEST CALDERON: They can do it, Ted, but this is what's going to be required. It won't be done and you probably read some of the criticisms that have come out, just from this idea, some people are concerned, particularly south of the Gila, concerned about who's going to get credit for this. If we can all put aside the desire to take credit for this and work together, it can be done. I'm very encouraged by Leah Bornstein in Coconino and Lucas Glasper in Phoenix that they want to work together with us.
TED SIMONS: Thank you so much for joining us on this very interesting idea.
ERNEST CALDERON: It's good to be back.

Ernest Calderon:President, Arizona Board of Regents President;

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