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Arizona awarded $60,000 grant to help close college attainment gap

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PHOENIX — Arizona is getting some help to close the education attainment gap, thanks to a new grant.

The $60,000 grant is from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the Lumina Foundation.

It’ll go toward efforts to close the education attainment gap for Latinos and Native Americans – two groups less likely to hold a post-secondary degree than their white counterparts.

“This gives us an opportunity to say, with a hyper-focused look, how do we best move the needle on post-secondary attainment for these groups?” said Rachel Yanof, executive director of Achieve60AZ.

Her group is made up of more than 70 organizations across Arizona working to ensure Arizona has an educated and competitive workforce. They set a goal of reaching 60 percent postsecondary degree attainment in Arizona by 2030.

Yanof said to reach that goal, all groups – especially Latino and Native Americans – will need to improve their post-secondary degree attainment.

Paul Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation, said Arizona is making progress toward closing the attainment gap for Latinos. He said continuing that progress will be critical to reach the state’s postsecondary attainment goal.

“We’re going to need to make sure that all students across the state of Arizona, including Latino students, have access to a quality education and an opportunity to succeed,” he said.

Yanof said half of the grant funds will go toward creating round table discussions with Latino and Native American leaders across the state to get their take on what it would take to close the attainment gap. They’ll also be devising strategies to best meet the needs of students in their communities.

Data will also be analyzed to see where the gaps are occurring and why. The second half of the grant will go toward creating a task force to come up with steps the state needs to take to meet the goal of 60 percent postsecondary degree attainment by 2030.

In addition, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the Lumina Foundation are also providing Achieve60AZ additional support to help with their efforts.

“It is significantly more than just the dollar amount,” Yanof said. “It’s really all this technical support we’re getting that’s really going to help push this forward.”

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