Community Colleges Work to Ensure Arizona's Economic Competitiveness

Community Colleges Work to Ensure Arizona's Economic Competitiveness

by Emily Herring

2/15/16 UPDATE: SB 1322 Passes in Arizona Senate (25-3), Awaiting Vote in House (click here for details)

ASU’s Decision Theater (DT) partnered with the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), in advance of the 2016 legislative session, to create greater understanding of the Community College’s contribution to Arizona’s workforce and to facilitate discussions regarding resources needed to meet future education requirements. The effort included 1) implementing an iterative Joint Application Design (JAD) process to properly design the project, 2) modeling the economic value of higher education, 3) visualizing the complicated MCCCD funding mechanisms, 4) identifying MCCCD’s role in providing education requirements for the Maricopa County workforce of 2025, 5) developing alternative funding scenarios sufficient to meet education production requirements, 6) convening/hosting multiple forums for information briefings/dialog with decision makers and stakeholders. Drawing from funding solutions developed, visualized, and briefed for the Maricopa Community Colleges, Arizona’s fifty-second legislature introduced SB 1322 on February 1, 2016. The bill, passed in the Arizona Senate and awaits a House vote..

Since 2008, State funding to MCCCD has been eliminated—a permanent reduction of $68 million annually. Additionally, declining community college enrollment and depressed property values further erode available resources. With a slow economic recovery, MCCCD assesses negative voter sentiment for near term bond referendums. Statistical projections from ASU’s W.P. Carey Seidman Institute suggests that, without the establishment of new revenue streams, the MCCCD will be unable to resource its share of the education requirements of the projected 2025 county workforce.

DT led a collaborative effort to identify project objectives and scope. The team developed an interactive tool providing scenarios to measure the effectiveness of funding alternatives including entrepreneurial initiatives, tuition increases, bond issuance, and modification of state constitutionally imposed expenditure limits. MCCCD Chancellor Dr. Glasper led discussions with community college, business, media, and elected representatives including an event where a college president admitted that prior to visualization, she “never fully understood how expenditure and levy limits were calculated.” Following these engagements, SB 1322 was drafted to enable the MCCCD to receive additional tax revenue for higher cost programs of study while also permitting revenue generated through business or entrepreneurial initiatives to be exempt from expenditure limits. Results from the effort have been published in The Maricopian, AZEDNEWS, and The Phoenix Business Journal. A complete video of the presentation is available at on YouTube.