Here’s what’s needed to get more Arizona adults with a college degree or credential

Mar 8, 2023, 4:45 AM | Updated: 10:14 am
(AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)...
(AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

PHOENIX — Arizona education experts are mapping out what is required to reach an ambitious postsecondary educational attainment goal for adults.

They’ve identified 10 priorities to help meet the Achieve60AZ goal of getting 60% of working-age adults to earn a college degree, certificate or license by 2030. It includes increasing pay for teachers, offering state-supported full-day kindergarten and expanding scholarship opportunities for students.

Rich Nickel, president and CEO of the nonprofit Education Forward Arizona, said his group came up with the list of priorities after hearing from about 300 students, educators, business leaders and other stakeholders through a series of convenings across the state.

“Hopefully these top 10 priorities will be used by the community to really help think about how we invest in education, and how we advocate for key pieces that the community thinks are important,” he said.

Arizona has some work to do to reach the 60% goal. Currently 48% of Arizona working-age adults hold a degree or credential, an increase from 42% in 2018.

“The goal is important, and it was set because we know that moving forward, we’re going to need more and more people who are highly qualified and highly skilled to fill all these great jobs that our economic development folks are bringing to the state,” Nickel said.

The 10 priorities also include providing professional development for teachers in reading and math, increasing access to dual enrollment courses and increasing the number of school counselors, psychologists, social workers and other professionals in schools.

In addition to the priorities, the Arizona Education Progress Meter shows what it will take to reach the state’s Achieve60AZ goal based on eight indicators representing early learning, K-12 education and postsecondary attainment.

The latest progress meter shows improvements in some of the indicators, including 3rd grade reading proficiency. It also shows declines in the percentage of toddlers who are in quality early learning settings and the rate of students who graduate from high school and are enrolled in postsecondary education right after.

Nickel stressed the importance of reaching the 60% postsecondary education goal.

“If we can meet our 60% goal, it literally means billions of dollars of economic impact to the state,” he said.

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Here’s what’s needed to get more Arizona adults with a college degree or credential