What would it mean to Arizona if 60 percent of our adults had some kind of postsecondary credential or degree? What would the impact be on our economic future and the lives of our citizens? Achieve60AZ envisions a future where Arizona has a well-educated, highly-skilled workforce contributing to a thriving economy.
The Achieve60AZ alliance includes nearly 100 organizations, education institutions, businesses and local governments. Members in Southern Arizona include: AGM Container Controls Inc., Cochise College, Santa Cruz Provisional Community College District, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, the University of Arizona, the University of Arizona College of Education, the cities of Douglas, Nogales, San Luis and Tucson, the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita and Santa Cruz County.
Recently, our alliance released our first State of Attainment Report, outlining the progress we’ve made and where we need to go. Our trajectory is heading in the right direction, but we need to do much more to meet our goal.
By the time today’s preschoolers complete high school, seven of every 10 jobs will require some type of post high-school education. That’s why we’ve set the goal that, by 2030, 60 percent of Arizona’s adults, age 25 to 64, will have a postsecondary credential or degree. Today, only 45 percent of adults in that age bracket have completed some of postsecondary certification or degree.
In absolute numbers, we need 1 million more Arizonans to earn a credential by 2030 in order to reach the 60 percent goal. There are many ways to parse that number, but we have identified four critical areas to be successful:
- High school graduation – Pima County’s graduation rate is 74 percent, which is below the 84 percent national average. Increasing that rate to 90 percent would result in thousands more graduates per year.
- Postsecondary access and enrollment – Of those high school graduates, about 50 percent enroll in two- or four-year higher education institutions. Our state goal is 70 percent, which equates to tens of thousands more students in postsecondary every year.
- Postsecondary success and completion – Although many students enroll in higher education, only 27 percent graduate with a postsecondary degree. Doubling this rate would help meet Arizona’s growing workforce needs.
- Adult learners — There are 1 million adults in Arizona with some college and no degree. Supporting these adults in finishing their postsecondary programs can create a brighter future for them and get us closer to 60 percent attainment.
The imperatives for reaching our goal are both social and economic. Research by College Success Arizona found that increasing educational attainment to align with future labor-market needs would provide $7.6 billion in economic and social gains to the state. And the return on investment for producing graduates is high: each university graduate holds a value of $660,000 to the state.
The role of Achieve60AZ is to increase public support of postsecondary options, increase awareness of best practices and support programs that are working. Moving the needle on this goal requires educating and empowering decision makers to help us get there.
Every child from every family, no matter their background, deserves a quality education, to have options in their future and to live the best version of their life. Achieve60AZ gives Arizona a defined metric of success for what we believe education ultimately is — the key to economic freedom and choice.
To get involved or to read our State of Attainment Report, visit www.achieve60az.com.
Rachel Yanof is the executive director of Achieve60AZ. You can reach her at Rachel.yanof@achieve60AZ.com or follow
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!