NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 16, 2010

Governor Jan Brewer has been encouraging Arizona universities to develop lower cost alternatives to getting a four-year degree.  But, the state is bankrupt and will not be able to find additional money to help create such options, says Matthew Ladner, vice president of research with the Goldwater Institute.  

A consulting firm recently presented a report to the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) Governing Board with disturbing information about completion rates: 

  • The report found that 82 percent of community college students aim to get a degree, but only 11 percent of them have done so after three years.
  • This completion rate puts MCCCD in the bottom 12 percent of all community college systems nationwide, the report says.
  • At the university level, the Education Trust's database of university statistics reveals that four-year graduation rates of Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University to be 28.4 percent, 32.7 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively.  

Arizona's system of higher education is doing an extremely poor job in matching students with colleges.  The state is not doing students any favors by encouraging them to run up thousands of dollars in debt to pay for school, only to flunk out.  In addition, taxpayers should not subsidize six-year odysseys of self-discovery that half of the time fail to result in a university diploma, says Ladner: 

  • Arizona's community colleges and universities should raise their admission standards for new students.
  • Some, perhaps most, of the students flunking out of ASU, UA and NAU ought to be attending community colleges.
  • Community colleges traditionally focus on remediation and are less costly to students and taxpayers.
  • If we would properly match students to institutions, our higher education system would both save taxpayers money and serve students better. 

Those in higher education often are quick to point an accusing finger at the K-12 system for not preparing enough teenagers for college, and rightly so, but no one is forcing them to admit utterly unprepared students, says Ladner. 

Source: Matthew Ladner, "Arizona's colleges and universities would fare better with serious admission standards," Goldwater Institute, February 2, 2010. 


Browse more articles on Education Issues