Becky Nutt, Gila Valley Leadership

State Rep Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, second from right, is joined by Gila Valley Leadership Class 15 as she files HB 2790, her bill that would enable community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

PHOENIX — One of the Gila Valley’s representatives at the state Legislature has introduced a bill that would significantly expand Eastern Arizona College.

House Bill 2790 would allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in addition to the associate’s degrees community colleges already offer, as well as certificates of proficiency.

State Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, is the primary sponsor of HB 2790 — The Baccalaureate Degrees; Community Colleges bill. It is co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Russell Bowers, R-Mesa, Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, and Thomas Shope, R-Coolidge.

Nutt was unavailable to immediately return calls, but Kris McBride, director of marketing and public relations for Eastern Arizona College, said the bill presents “a wonderful opportunity.”

“The community wants EA to offer four-year programs,” McBride said.

The bill makes two significant changes to sections 14-1401 and 15-1444 of Arizona Revised Statutes dealing with community colleges.

The first change is in the definition of a community college, changing it from “an educational institution that is operated by a district board and that provides a program not exceeding two years’ training in the arts, sciences and humanities beyond the twelfth grade of the public or private high school course of study or vocational education,” to “not more than four years’ training . . .”

The other change, in the section outlining the general powers and duties of district boards, adds that boards would be required to “Offer four-year baccalaureate degrees that are accredited by a regional accreditation agency approved by the United States Department of Education.”

Students may currently obtain a four-year degree at Eastern Arizona College, through EAC’s agreement with both Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University. In each instance, the student completes the first two years of study at EAC, then transfers to the university of his or her choice. But, instead of having to move to Flagstaff or Tempe, university classes are taught on the EAC campus.

Maintaining those partnerships is crucial to EA, McBride said.

“We value our partnerships with the universities, and we want to work with them,” McBride said, adding that EAC would not be interested in duplicating the primary degree programs that the state’s universities already offer.

“The (Eastern Arizona College governing) board has to determine what programs will be beneficial to the community, then determine the funding and the staffing,” McBride said.

Nutt’s bill has been introduced and not yet heard by committee.

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