Arizona stands to gain billions from a more educated population, report finds

Mar 13, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: Mar 14, 2023, 6:35 am
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX –Is college worth it? A new report shows postsecondary attainment brings value not just to Arizonans, but to the state as a whole.

Students who earn a college degree or certificate can expect to earn more money, enjoy better health and have access to more opportunities than those with just a high school diploma. Their individual prosperity also translates to billions of dollars in economic impact for Arizona.

Those are some of the key findings from the report “Billions to Gain: The Economic Benefits of Investing in a More Educated Arizona” released last week by the Helios Education Foundation and Education Forward Arizona.

“We believe that education does change lives and make our communities better,” President and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation Paul Luna said. “And this research really starts to provide data and information to explain that statement.”

The report also finds, on average, the lifetime earnings for Arizonans with a bachelor’s degree are nearly three times greater than for those with no college degree.

Currently, about 46% of graduates enroll in postsecondary education right after high school. The report estimates increasing that rate by 20% would generate more than $5 billion per high school cohort in social gains attributable to factors like higher lifetime earnings, better health and increased workforce productivity.

It would also lead to $1.8 billion in tax revenue gains per cohort for the state.

“We just want to make it abundantly clear through this data that a more educated Arizona benefits all of us,” President and CEO of Education Forward Arizona Rich Nickel said.

The business community in particular is paying close attention to postsecondary enrollment and completion rates.

The most recent data shows 48% of Arizona working-age adults hold a college degree, certificate or license. The statewide Achieve60AZ goal is to get to 60% by 2030.

“When companies are assessing whether they’re going to grow in scale in a market – yes, it’s capital, it’s access to debt and equity – but it’s also do they have the people?” President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council Chris Camacho said.

Camacho added that the job market in Arizona is changing, with the state becoming one of the leading markets in the country for semiconductors and advanced electronics. He said ensuring the state has a strong workforce with the relevant skills is critical to sustain and grow key industries.

The report concludes with several recommendations to improve postsecondary education attainment in Arizona, including increasing dual enrollment options in high school and making college more affordable.

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Arizona stands to gain billions from a more educated population, report finds