Breaking down barriers to give students access


Northern Arizona University and two of its community college partners are breaking through traditional boundaries to make earning a higher education degree a reality for more students in the state.

This new way of thinking and working together is part of the solution to a statewide need—some say a crisis—to make Arizona globally competitive by having a better educated workforce.

On Monday, NAU and Coconino Community College unveiled a new program that will dramatically ease the path toward earning a baccalaureate degree.

CCC2NAU starts this fall and is open to community college students who might be interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The program is distinguished by its tailored, intensive advising with shared expertise from CCC and NAU, and a seamless transition from the community college to the university.

“Universities and community colleges traditionally have seen themselves in competition with each other,” said NAU President John Haeger. “In a sense, the education system has to rearrange and restructure itself…and show students, ‘you can move to a baccalaureate degree, and it’s essential for your future.'”

Haeger said CCC2NAU removes the anxiety of “the dreaded word, ‘transfer.'” The focused advising of the program will keep CCC students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree on track, without wasting time or credits.

In addition to streamlining the transfer process, CCC2NAU makes several NAU services and resources available to the community college students. CCC students who sign up for the program will be granted an NAU e-mail account and NAU ID card that provides access to Cline Library, computer labs and athletic events. CCC2NAU offers automatic transfer of credits and waives application fees. Community college students in the program also will receive access to NAU student rates for programs and events, including theater and symphony performances, meal plans, the health center and recreational facilities.

“We expect that CCC2NAU will help us provide students with guidance earlier to help them succeed in reaching their educational goals,” said CCC President Leah L. Bornstein. “This may well be life changing to those who may not have considered continuing their education beyond the community college. Now, they know they’ve got a team behind them coaching them all along the way.”

Haeger and Fizner
President John Haeger visits with Dale Fitzner, right, a member of the Yavapai College District Governing Board, following a press conference announcing the expansion of NAU’s presence and programs in Yavapai County.

Prior to introducing CCC2NAU, Haeger was in Prescott last week to jointly announce with Yavapai College an expanded NAU presence and new programs for Yavapai County residents.

Beginning this fall, NAU will offer two new degree programs on the Yavapai campus: a bachelor’s of business administration and a bachelor’s in elementary education, with an emphasis in early childhood education. NAU and Yavapai College also adopted joint admissions, which is immediately available to students meeting admissions criteria for both Yavapai College and NAU, and provides students a single track that will lead to a bachelor’s degree.

NAU will open the doors of the “NAU building” this month on the Yavapai College campus. The building, which formerly housed Yavapai administrative offices, will now be dedicated to NAU offices for advising and serving Yavapai students.

“NAU and Yavapai College continue to break the mold in higher education by eliminating barriers between community colleges and universities that sometimes inhibit student success in reaching educational goals,” said Yavapai College President Jim Horton. “Together we will greatly expand local opportunities for our citizens to pursue a high-quality education.”

The announcements with Coconino Community College and Yavapai College advance the recommendations of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s P-20 Council to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the state.

“It is critical that Arizona focus on every level of our educational pipeline, and the relationship between community colleges and universities is key to the success of higher education transparency in this state,” said state Sen. Tom O’Halleran, who participated in the Prescott announcement.

Haeger said the collaborations with Coconino Community College and Yavapai College serve as a model for other community college partnerships that could help turn the tide of Arizona’s current ranking of 38th in the United States in students who pursue a college education.