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Statewide Alliance Launches Achieve60AZ to Boost Educational Attainment for All Arizonans

Author: Rich Nickel, President and CEO, College Success Arizona and Darcy Renfro, Director, The Arizona We Want Institute

 
The most powerful instrument of economic development and healthy communities is the number of adults in Arizona with a high-quality postsecondary credential. By 2020, 68 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require education beyond high  school. There is tremendous opportunity to improve individual success and the economic performance of our state if we can move the current 42 percent attainment rate to meet these workforce demands. The time is now to act decisively to increase postsecondary attainment rates.

In December 2014, Helios Education Foundation, Lumina Education Foundation, College Success Arizona, Expect More Arizona, Stand for Children and the Center for the Future of Arizona formed an informal coalition to explore how to help alleviate our attainment deficit. A key goal of the group was to promote and set a state-supported education attainment goal for Arizona. This group produced several core awareness pieces, policy positions, economic research, and started building the case among Arizona’s policy makers, education and business leaders to set a goal that would lead to increased attainment.

After a year of steady progress, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) embraced setting an attainment goal for Arizona and formally convened the Arizona Education Attainment Alliance to help facilitate and lead this initiative toward a goal and a sustainable effort to achieve the goal. Eileen Klein, ABOR President, committed staff and resources to help promote this initiative and also provided crucial leadership to advance the initiative. Between December 2015 and May 2016, a statewide group of more than 50 organizations and leaders joined forces to agree on a 60 percent attainment goal, and to create an awareness and policy campaign branded ACHIEVE60AZ, which launched at Franklin Police and Fire High School, in Phoenix last week.

Achieve60AZ is a community-based alliance building support to help Arizona ensure that 60 percent of Arizona adults ages 25 to 64 attain a professional certificate or college degree by 2030. To get there, Achieve60AZ is organized around four key areas:

1.    Strengthening the K-12 pipeline;
2.    Increasing access for education and learning beyond high school for all Arizonans
3.    Increasing completion at all levels of postsecondary education and training
4.    Alignment to workforce 

As a proud participant in the alliance, The Center for the Future of Arizona believes that Achieve60AZ provides an opportunity to talk about the benefits of higher education and training, not just for an individual’s pursuit toward success but its importance to the overall health, well-being, community connection and the economy of our state, counties, cities and towns. By actively engaging leaders in government, philanthropy and business to come together to support a common goal that helps align effort, prioritize resources and expand the reach of individual efforts through a clear connection, we send a common message about this important goal.

With strong support of a cross-sector of education institutions, business and philanthropy—and with the strong support of Governor Doug Ducey, evident in his powerful comments at the launch event last week—we believe that this effort can be sustained over time, respect existing initiatives among cross-sector partners and even transcend political changes. The hope is that Achieve60AZ will start a new conversation about Arizona’s future that is inclusive of the entire educational pipeline and keeps focus on our state’s workforce and economic needs.

College Success Arizona is committed to increasing Arizona’s attainment rate, and by extension, Arizona’s economy. We believe that Arizona is at one of the most crucial junctures in our state’s history and it is essential that decisions to increase postsecondary attainment are made today. It is also vital to recognize that there will be significant costs associated with a failure to act.

As leaders in this effort, both College Success Arizona and The Center for the Future of Arizona, believe that setting a statewide attainment goal through Achieve60AZ, is a significant and meaningful first step.

Visit Achieve60AZ.com to learn more.  

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