Payson residents can now get a bachelor's degree for about a fourth of the normal cost -- all without leaving Payson.
It is all part of a program offered by Northern Arizona University and Gila Community College.
A partnership between the two educational institutions offers a bachelor's degree of science or arts in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on public management.
Moreover, students at the community college can now get up to 90 credit hours toward the two degrees.
That would mean they would have to pay for only 30 credit hours at the university level.
At $235 per credit hour and 120 credit hours needed for a bachelor's degree, the average degree costs about $29,000 at NAU.
The community college char-ges only $60 per credit hour for 2008-2009 classes. So if a student at GCC completes 90 credit hours at $60 per credit hour, the cost would be about $5,400.
The 30 additional hours needed through NAU would cost about $7,000, so the cost of the bachelor's degree comes to about $12,400.
And those prices are just the cost of classes. If a student lives away from home while attending college, the cost can be significantly higher.
The program, called a 90/30 program, is the first in Arizona to grant students at the community college level up to 90 credit hours towards a four-year university degree.
"Parents in the area are excited about this. It means they could end up spending a lot less for their children's post-high school educations," said the Payson coordinator for NAU, Kathleen Stemmler.
For students looking to complete one of the degrees, the first three years (90 credit hours) would be taken from Gila Community College instructors.
NAU instructors via video-conferencing at the GCC Payson campus would teach the last 30 credit hours.
The program doesn't benefit just younger students; mature students can also finish a degree they may have had to put on hold.
"If someone took a history class 20 years ago, the credits for that class will still be honored towards one of the bachelor's degrees we are offering," Stemmler said.
In Gila County, students 55 or older can get one credit hour for free while taking classes at the community college.
An existing partnership between NAU and GCC, called 2+2, splits the time and credits for a bachelor's degree, but the new program offers an even more accelerated path at a lower cost.
GCC Payson Campus Dean Pamela Butterfield said she is excited about the new program.
"We are pleased to expand our partnership with Northern Arizona University by offering these unique and cost effective bachelor's degree programs," said Butterfield.
For more information and registration dates, contact Stemmler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-800-426-8315, ext. 41940, or visit the NAU Web site at www.distance.nau.edu.