UA South proposed elimination not likely

By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 3, 2005

PHOENIX - A bill that would change the funding of universities and community colleges, allow community colleges to offer some four-year baccalaureate degrees and eliminate the UA's south campus in Sierra Vista was stalled yesterday in the Arizona House of Representatives.

The presidents of the UA, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Board of Regents oppose the bill, and representatives from community colleges across the state support it.

The presidents expressed their opposition in a letter to the committee Monday. The opposition in the letter was reiterated yesterday by Paulina Vasquez-Morris, regent counsel.

UA lobbyist Greg Fahey said the presidents have been in contact with the legislators on the committee, and they are aware of President Peter Likins' opposition to the elimination of UA South and the creation of four-year degrees for community colleges.

The letter said that "comprehensive overhauls to both the university and community college funding formulas" do not allow for the debate necessary to come to the best conclusion for all schools.

A House Appropriations committee heard testimony on the bill yesterday but will refrain from voting until Monday, said Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, chairman of the committee.

The bill would require the state to fund enrollment growth at the universities, something they have not done in recent years, and change the rate from funding one full-time faculty position for every 22 full-time students to $5,600 per full time student.

The presidents asked the committee to identify from where they would get the money to fund enrollment growth and to consider how they need funding for other things, such as building maintenance.

The bill would also allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in the areas of law enforcement and fire services, health professions (such as nursing), teacher education and any area that is "workforce related" and for which the universities do not offer a four-year degree.

The presidents' letter said the creation of these degrees at community colleges was "without an established rationale or sufficient analysis."

Fahey said that one of Likins' major concerns about eliminating UA South is because that institution is one of the way to manage growth when the UA reaches its predicted 40,000-person capacity for students.

Fahey said university leadership was "not only not pleased, we were shocked" to find out that such a large component of the university's plan for managing growth was proposed for elimination.

Ray Flores, Pima Community College chancellor, said a year ago he was not convinced that community colleges should offer four-year degrees, but with the university redesign proposal, he said he thinks it is a solution for growth.

Under the redesign, the UA will not expand once it reaches its capacity, and Flores said that allowing community colleges to offer some bachelor's degrees would help compensate for the growing demand for higher education.

He said he was not suggesting that community colleges could pick up all of the slack or that they were the only solution, but certainly they could help.

"We're not in competition with UA, but we know no university offers every degree possible," Flores said. "There are times when communities need unique degrees."

Fahey said that the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, said an amendment will probably be written to remove the proposed elimination of UA South from the bill. Not only was Likins concerned with it, but many legislators were as well, Fahey said.