The $1.5 million Lumina Foundation grant awarded to Arizona this week to aid in developing “no frills” options to delivering bachelor’s degree programs fits to a tee Northern Arizona University’s new, lower-cost four-year degree partnerships with community colleges.
“The Lumina grant couldn’t be more welcome at a time when Northern Arizona University is moving forward rapidly with solutions that address head-on the need for more affordable—and accessible—four-year degree programs,” said NAU President John Haeger.
“For three decades, the university has taken higher education to where people live and work in communities throughout Arizona. We have stepped up that effort significantly with our joint admissions and four-year degree programs with community colleges,” Haeger said.
The university originally established a joint admissions program with Coconino Community College in Flagstaff, whereby students enroll at both the community college and the university to start immediately on a four-year degree path. Cost savings are significant as students pay the lower community college tuition for their lower-division coursework. The CCC2NAU program, as it is called, started with about 30 students in August 2008 and today enrolls about 230.
In October, the university celebrated the opening of NAU-Yavapai in Prescott Valley, which will allow area students to earn bachelor’s degrees in targeted areas through accelerated programming in less than four years and at less than half the cost of a traditional, residential college experience.
The university also has established AWC2NAU, a joint admissions program with its longstanding community college partner, Arizona Western College, at NAU’s branch campus in Yuma. “We’re looking at the potential for specific, streamlined four-year degree plans within the NAU-AWC partnership,” noted Larry Gould, NAU associate vice president and the Yuma branch campus executive officer. Gould also said the Yuma branch campus is using its curricular process to help develop the four-year degree programs at NAU-Yavapai.
Haeger said he envisions the potential of regional universities evolving in Prescott Valley and Yuma in collaboration with NAU’s community college partners. Such an evolution would take time, he said, and it would be imperative for the university and community colleges to retain their distinctive missions.
“At NAU, Haeger said, “we are developing the model for lower-cost education by working with Arizona’s already-existing community colleges to focus just on teaching and offer a limited number of degree programs that the community says it needs and wants. And the Lumina grant will help us get there.”
The Lumina Foundation of Education awarded the Arizona Board of Regents up to $1.5 million on a multi-year initiative that includes expanding the lower-cost options for delivering bachelor’s degree programs and creating a new state funding formula for higher education that rewards student progress and degree completion.