Northern Arizona University isn’t going to wait for Valley students to come to its Flagstaff campus. It’s coming to them.
The university and the Maricopa County Community College District signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday that allows NAU to offer four-year degree programs and some master’s programs at the district’s 10 campuses starting this fall.
Bachelor’s degrees offered will include administration of justice at Mesa Community College, elementary education at Chandler-Gilbert, business administration and early childhood education at Paradise Valley, and speech communication at Glendale.
NAU’s expansion into the Valley won’t create a turf war with Arizona State University, said NAU President John Haeger. Despite ASU’s growing and dominating presence in the area, the two institutions have their own niche, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is meet the needs of the older students who are placebound and who aren’t going to go to ASU,” Haeger said. “Students who want a traditional, four-year experience are going to transfer to ASU.”
NAU’s programs are nearly equal to ASU’s in cost. NAU’s annual tuition is expected to rise 3.6 percent next year, so in-state undergraduates would pay $4,375. ASU may raise annual tuition 8.5 percent to $4,311 for instate undergraduates. Regents haven’t yet approved the tuition hikes.
With 61,000 students, ASU is the largest state university in the country and growing. NAU has shrunk. Its enrollment peaked in fall 1995 at 20,131 students, slipping to 18,779 last fall.
The deal with MCCCD may cushion the fall, said NAU spokesman Tom Bauer.
In a plan the regents approved, NAU vowed to become a university in many places. It has added online courses and sent faculty to teach at sites statewide. Now, a third of NAU’s students are in distance-learning courses.
Even without the new agreement, NAU serves 2,400 students in Maricopa County.
NAU’s flagship program is education. It began elementary education degree programs at Paradise Valley and Phoenix community colleges this school year.
NAU also offers classes in early childhood education at South Mountain, said Maria Harper-Marinick, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the district.
Any MCCCD student can apply to the local NAU programs, but some will be taught exclusively at one campus.
For example, when speech communication starts in the fall, it will be offered only at Glendale.
The colleges choose the programs they will host, based on demand and what they already offer, Harper-Marinick said.
Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, tried to increase access to affordable higher education with a bill that would have allowed community colleges to offer baccalaureates.
That effort was derailed in February after the community colleges and regents reached a consensus that gives the universities first option in providing four-year degree programs around the state.