Report: Arizona could generate billions from increased postsecondary enrollment

May 2, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:01 am

(Pexels Photo)...

(Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — A new report shows Arizona could gain billions in revenue from increasing college enrollment and completion.

About 45% of high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education the semester after graduating high school, according to the Arizona Education Progress Meter.

The Billions to Gain Report from Helios Education Foundation in partnership with Education Forward Arizona found increasing the enrollment rate in Arizona by 20% would lead to more than $5 billion in social gains per cohort (per year). Helios describes social gains as lifetime earnings, improved health, reduced crime, welfare spending and increased workforce productivity.

“People that have better jobs tend to have less crimes in those areas, they have better health because they have more revenue to buy better and healthier foods, and then there’s less having to go on welfare,” Paul Perrault, senior vice president of community impact and learning for Helios, said.

The increase in enrollment would also lead to $1.82 million in fiscal gains for Arizona through tax revenue.

“Increased taxation, not raising taxes but bringing more in because people have higher incomes and we have better jobs here that are paying more money,” Perrault said.

Higher education also leads to a higher income. The education foundation found the lifetime earnings of a high school graduate from the class of 2022 to be $679,000. By contrast, a resident who obtains a bachelor’s degree would make $1,531,000 a 77% increase.

“That’s going to give you a lot more opportunities to have that college degree, even though you have to put in that time and effort and even some money to go to college at the beginning,” Perrault said.

One way to increase postsecondary enrollment throughout the state is by enrolling non-white students at the same rate as white students. According to Helios non-white students are much less likely to enroll in college or complete a four-year degree compared to white students.

“Latino students are about 8 to 10 percentage points lower than white students going to college right now,” Perrault said.

“If we increased Hispanic students, Black students, Native American students to the same level, if everyone was at the same level of college going, we would see an $8.69 billion increase in social gains,” Perrault said.

Arizona would also see an increase of $3.3 billion in fiscal gains per high school cohort.

Perrault suggests three ways to increase enrollment rates, including FAFSA completion.

“A lot of students think college is not affordable and if we can get students to complete the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid students can see there are a lot of opportunities and not just loans to go to college,” Perrault said.

He adds increased opportunities for counseling to show students the pathways to college, along with improving the rigorous courses offered in Arizona schools.

“Giving students especially in high school more opportunities to take dual enrollment or AP courses to show them that they can do college level courses and along the way get some college level credit,” Perrault said.

Perrault emphasizes the social gains from higher college enrollment benefit the state when it comes low taxes.

“The more high-paying jobs we have in Arizona, which really are going to require a college degree helps our communities stay nicer, helps our taxes stay lower,” Perrault said.

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Report: Arizona could generate billions from increased postsecondary enrollment