Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 11, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Lower-cost College Degrees

  • Budget cuts and tuition hikes have prompted the Arizona Board of Regents to take a closer look at the affordability of higher education. The President-elect of the Arizona Board of Regents talks about one idea to provide students with lower cost options for earning a college degree.
  • Ernest Calderon - Vice President-elect,Arizona Board of Regents

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Budget cuts and tuition hikes have prompted the Arizona board of regents to take a closer look at the affordability of higher education. One idea being considered would give students lower cost options to earn a college degree. Here to explain is Ernest Calderon, president-elect of the Arizona board of regents. Ernie good to have you here.

Ernie Calderon:
Pleasure to be here, Ted.

Ted Simons:
The goal of lower-priced college degrees, what are we talking about here?

Ernie Calderon:
There's been an outcry, from parents and legislators and governor herself has challenged us to reform higher education in Arizona and asking for us to have a more affordable baccalaureate degree granting institution or institutions. Right now tuition is roughly around $6,00 a year. Right now, the suggestions have been can you do it for half that? Can you do it for 40% less? In order to do that, we have asked each of the three university presidents to bring their ideas, suggestions as a point of departure.

Ted Simons:
The idea of a lower-priced degree, does that by nature mean it's a less valuable degree?

Ernie Calderon:
It can, but it won't be in the case of Arizona if we're successful. See, the higher priced degree is because our three universities are research oriented. They're scholarly and well respected based on their heavy research and teaching. If we go to a strictly instructional model and we don't have the capital infrastructure -- huge libraries, athletics facilities and those sorts of things -- then the costs will naturally decrease. In some cases, part-time faculty, other human costs, human capital costs might also be considered in order to help reduce the cost.

Ted Simons:
Where would this new four-year university slash college, where would it be?

Ernie Calderon:
I'm glad you mentioned that. The idea was that we would have several new options and somehow the idea of a fourth university entered the public debate or discussion. It could be a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, new universities or it could be the three universities we have now, creating satellite campuses or creating something as A.S.U. in Pason or ASU in lake Havasu you might even see NAU in Yuma spin-off, there are a variety of courses. Keeping the quality of education high but also trying to make sure there aren't those intrinsic high dollar barriers there.

Ted Simons:
What about community colleges? Why not all of them, a few of them become four-year institutions?

Ernie Calderon:
I think that's something that needs to be entered into the debate. The problem with that, though is we don't want the community colleges to lose the mission they've followed. We have a wonderful community college system in Arizona. They're wonderful partners with our universities. They provide a different service than the research institutions provide. They provide a much lower cost product and it's limited in scope relative to the associate's degree. We want to make sure we don't lose that if we go in that route. But it's something to consider.

Ted Simons:
Maybe something like a third or fourth -- how about third and fourth years?

Ernie Calderon:
We technically do that, NAU technically does that, with a variety of the community colleges where you can stay in a community college campus and complete your third and fourth years through N.A.U., but appears as a seamless plan. That’s something as well we need to take a look at, do we expand on the 2+2 or 3+1 program as well. Our goal is in December to have four or five various options for public debate and discussion. So that we can see if there's some way we can provide a more affordable bachelor's degree.

Ted Simons:
Last question, why are there not more smaller, private public colleges in Arizona?

Ernie Calderon:
That has been the subject of a lot of discussion. In a sense, we have benefited from it in that our three universities are very high in caliber, very high in quality. In another sense, we've not. We don't have a lot of small colleges around and people are now saying it's time to move - let the pendulum swing back into geographic accessibility.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for being here.

Ernie Calderon:
Have me back and we'll tell you what we found.

Ted Simons:
It's a date.

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