Accessible Education: Everything You Need to Know About HB 2523

Mar, 15 2021

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Light blue background with right-aligned white text that reads Bachelor Degrees at Community Colleges with dark blue text underneath that reads Accessible Education: Everything You Need to Know About HB 2523 and a dark blue graduation cap and degree icon on the left

You may have heard about House Bill 2523 (HB 2523) in the news or on social media, and if you haven't, that's okay. We are going to break down everything you need to know about HB 2523.

What is it?

On February 22, the Arizona House of Representatives approved HB 2523, a bill that would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees under limited circumstances. HB 2523 is positioned to help students attain bachelor's degrees regardless of their socioeconomic background or status. This bill is currently being considered in the Arizona Senate.

Universities offer bachelor's degrees. Why do we need them at community colleges? 

  • Bachelor's degrees at community colleges fill transfer gaps.

According to a 2020 update from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, one-third of community college students transfer to four-year colleges. In the U.S., less than 15 percent of all students who began at a community college complete their bachelor's degree within six years. For students who do the transfer, there is a loss of earned credits in the transfer process. Based on an analysis of the Department of Education from GAO, transfer students lost 37 percent of already earned community college credits. Community colleges offering bachelor's degrees will expand access to a bachelor's and removes the stress of meeting university requirements.

  • Bachelor's degrees at community colleges help students save money and create community.

Higher education is expensive. College Board research shows that the national average in-state tuition at four-year public universities is $10,440. Tuition at the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) averages an annual cost of just over $2,500 for full-time students, enabling us to offer a four-year degree at a much lower cost than a public university.

  • Bachelor's degrees at community colleges meet employer demand.

According to the Department of Labor, there are roughly 6.9 million unfilled jobs across the United States. Current market trends have shown various industries have raised the degree level for entry-level positions. From 2007 to 2019, jobs that require a bachelor's degree increased by 60 percent and will continue to rise.

  • Bachelor's degrees at community colleges expand access and improve educational access.

In Washington and Florida, the average baccalaureate student is between 31-32 years old, with upper-division students at public universities averaging 22 years old. Beyond age groups, they can expand access to historically underserved populations in higher education. In Florida community college bachelor’s programs, 74 percent of students are financial aid recipients, minority students, individuals who have disabilities, or nonnative English speaking. 23 states already provide community colleges the authority to confer bachelor’s degrees, including California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. 

What happens if HB 2523 is passed?

The passing of HB 2523 will allow Arizona's community colleges to offer four-year bachelor's degrees. MCCCD would offer four-year programs in high-demand areas where the current graduate supply is not meeting labor market demands for professions like law enforcement, teachers, or nurses. MCCCD would join the 23 other states who offer bachelor's degree programs at community colleges. More importantly, MCCCD four-year programs would increase diversity and close the equity gap in the Arizona workforce.

How can you help?

Call or email your legislators explaining why baccalaureate degrees at community colleges are essential for students in Arizona. Utilize the fundamental facts to establish an advocacy plan that directly addresses concerns.

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