Gov. Doug Ducey today signed legislation allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees to the delight of Eastern Arizona College President Todd Haynie.

“At Eastern Arizona College, we’re ready to support and work with students who want to get a higher education and build a career,” Haynie said in a prepared statement released by the governor’s office. “The legislation signed by Governor Ducey provides an accessible way for Arizona students to continue their education and build a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. When community colleges offer four-year degrees, it opens up opportunities for more students of all ages and backgrounds. Thank you to everyone who supported this bill.”

Ducey was presented with SB 1453 after the Arizona state senate voted 24-6 in favor of the bill of the bill last week.

The bill took decades to pass and Ducey singled out Senator Paul Boyer and State Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, for leading the charge.

Under the legislation, community colleges opting to offer baccalaureate degrees must approve each program based on specific criteria, including workforce need, a financial and administrative analysis of the feasibility of offering the program, and mitigating duplication.

“Enabling Arizona’s community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees will be very beneficial to San Carlos Apache College students by increasing the amount and diversity of choices available to them locally and throughout the State, if not the country, for pursuing their baccalaureate and higher-level degrees,” San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler said in the same news release. “A more educated and skilled Arizona workforce will also increase business and personal income, grow revenues for the state to invest in other critical needs, and decrease dependency on social safety nets.”

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Last week, Haynie said once the college has determined what degrees are of interest, the college will present them to the community college board for them to approve. After the degrees are approved, they will also need to be approved by the college’s accrediting committee, which could take some time.

“Should we find a program, it could take three years or maybe more before we could enroll EAC students in an EAC baccalaureate program,” he said.

Haynie said the expansion of the 102-year-old college has always been a community effort.

So many students say they love attending EAC and wish they could stay longer, he said. By providing baccalaureate programs, the college can give the students what they desire and increase enrollment.

Haynie also expressed his gratitude to Nutt for efforts.

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