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Report: Number of Arizona high schoolers who attend college is lacking

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PHOENIX — A report by the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday found that around 52% of Arizona’s 2018 high school graduating class enrolled in higher education, a number that needs to improve for the state’s quality of labor market.

Among the approximately 72,000 high school students who graduated in 2018, 34,000 didn’t enroll in college, according to the report.

A potential cause put forth by the report is the disparity between high schools in the state, particularly those located in rural, tribal and sections of the urban core.

The top Arizona high schools educate just over 60% of high school graduates but produce 82% of those who enroll in a four-year college, according to the report.

The disparity continues with high school graduates who eventually complete their degrees, as the report found students at the top 10% of Arizona high schools had a completion rate of nearly 50%, while those in the bottom 60% of high schools had a completion rate of less than 10%.

Arizona has, however, continued to improve college completion trends over the last few years as 22.4% of 2013 high school graduates completed a four-year degree, compared to just 17.3% from the 2005 class.

Also improving is enrollment rates among Hispanic and Native American high school graduates, according to the report, as Hispanic graduate enrollment rates improved 2.3% and Native American graduate enrollment increased 1.2% from five years earlier.

College completion rates for most racial and ethnic groups improved as well, but disparity remains as Native American, Hispanic and Black high school graduates all have under a 20% chance of completing a four-year degree, while graduates of Asian descent have a 47.4% chance and white graduates have 29.9% chance.

Improving college enrollment and completion among underrepresented populations are important to the organization as it was said in the report that students of color comprise a fast-growing part of the state’s first and secondary education.

“Arizona has made modest progress, but we continue to face challenges ensuring enough students pursue a postsecondary education after high school,” Chair Larry E. Penley, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, said in the release.

It’s critical to improve our state’s educational attainment across all racial and ethnic lines, because we know this is a vital indicator of economic opportunity for individuals and Arizona as a whole. Increasing the number of Arizonans who attend and complete an education after high school will continue to be among the board’s highest priorities.”

Increasing the number of students that pursue postsecondary education, particularly those who plan to earn a four-year degree, is important as only 28.6% of Arizona high school graduates chose to attend a four-year institution.

That number will not be enough to replace college degree-holders forecast to retire in the coming years, according to the report, forcing the state to rely upon immigration from other states to fill positions that require a four-year degree unless education attainment is rapidly improved.

Along with Arizona’s low high school competition rate, which the report says ranks in the bottom quartile of the United States, and college completion rates, just 18% of ninth graders in 2020 will graduate from a four-year college in 2029 if trends continue – well below today’s Arizona workforce attainment rate of 33.8% of individuals who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The report found that many Arizona high school graduates who pursued a four-year degree stay home, as 68.4 % choose to enroll in an Arizona public university.

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