February 16, 2005
A lawmaker’s proposal to allow community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees barely cleared a skeptical House panel Tuesday.
The newly formed Committee on Universities, Community Colleges and Technology voted 5-4 after two hours of debate.
Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, told the panel the proposal is good for taxpayers.
He said it would create a more flexible and affordable alternative to state universities without diminishing their roles.
Community colleges would offer only certain degrees tailored to people who have a hard time attending a university, including those who have families or work full time in nursing or law enforcement, he said.
But several members of the panel complained that the proposal was poorly conceived because supporters couldn’t say how much the change would cost or where the money would come from. The proposal would lack proper oversight and compete with universities for scarce public funds, they said.
Voting no were John Allen, R-Scottsdale, Colette Rosati, R-Scottsdale, Ted Downing, D-Tucson, and David Bradley, D-Tucson.
Yes votes came from committee chairwoman Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, Steve Tully, RPhoenix, and Lucy Mason, R-Prescott.
Its next hurdle is the House Appropriations Committee in two weeks.
Pearce is chairman of the committee, but that doesn’t mean the bill’s success is assured.
Pearce’s colleagues told him the bill needed a lot of work if it is to make it out of the Legislature and win the governor’s approval.
People on both sides of the issue turned out for the debate. Supporters included the Arizona Nursing Association, the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association, the Arizona Police Association, and community college executives from Pima, Cochise and Maricopa counties.
Critics included former Rep. Matt Salmon, who is a lobbyist for Arizona State University and private Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Other lobbyists from Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, and ASU registered opposition to the bill, as did the Arizona Tax Research Association.