Latino high school graduation rate in Arizona on the rise

(Flickr/Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office)

PHOENIX — More Latino students are graduating from high school nationwide — and the trend is also true in Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Education found 72 percent of Latino students got a high school diploma within four years in 2015, the year for which the most recent data is available. That’s up from 69 percent in 2009.

Paul Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation, said there are multiple reasons why more Latino students in Arizona are graduating from high school, including a change in how they view high school diplomas.

“High school degree completion is now becoming more and more something that students believe, know and understand that it’s something they need to do,” he said.

Luna said he also credits the changing economy for the increase in Latinos graduating from high school. He said students understand the “jobs of the future are going to require some type of education success beyond high school.”

A recent Pew Research Center report finds the Latino high school dropout rate nationwide has fallen in the past two decades. Meanwhile, more Latino students are heading to college.

In Arizona, Latino students continue to lag behind the statewide average. Nearly 78 percent of students across the state graduated within four years in 2015, compared to 72 percent of Latinos.

Luna said the success of Latino students is important for the future economic well-being of Arizona.

“If we want the state of Arizona to thrive economically, it’s going to be important that all of our students are educated and prepared,” he said.

“That means there’s a point of emphasis on ensuring all kids, especially Latino kids who make up now a large percentage of our K-12 population, need to be successful in their academic endeavors.”