Achieve60AZ and the Imperative to Increased Educational Attainment

Author: Christine M. Thompson, Project Manager, Achieve60AZ

May 26, 2017

By the time today’s preschoolers complete high school, seven of every 10 jobs will require some type of higher education.  Arizona must act now to increase the post high school education of our population to be economically competitive.

The Achieve60AZ Alliance of 60 statewide education, business, community, and philanthropic organizations recognized this imperative, and last September announced the goal that 60 percent of Arizonans will have a post high school credential or degree by 2030. 

Recent research by College Success Arizona indicates that if Arizona simply met the national goal for post-secondary attainment of 60 percent, it would pump an additional $3.5 billion in personal income and tax revenue into the state annually.

The attainment goal acts as a north star as organizations across the state recognize challenges and seek to impact attainment.  Arizona lags other states in the number of adults who have earned certificates or degrees past high school – currently at 42 percent. Today, slightly more than half of high school graduates will attend a college the following year, and only 18 percent of Arizona public high-school students will graduate from college within six years of leaving high school. Further, less than four of every 10 working adults in Arizona today has earned a certificate or degree.  

Increasing the number of Arizonans who earn credentials beyond high school will create a highly skilled and diversified workforce that will energize our economy to compete nationally and globally.  An energized economy will attract more businesses to our state, increase the tax base, and decrease poverty.

Key to this effort is the focus on diverse pathways.  Post high school education includes experiences at technical institutes or apprenticeships, as well as degree programs through community colleges or universities.  Those who have earned a certificate or license count toward the attainment rate, just as those who earn an associate’s or bachelor's degree. 

Achieve60AZ seeks to harness community energy and excitement about the goal to generate greater awareness of the importance of increasing Arizona’s level of educational attainment; build support to improve postsecondary entry and completion; boost adult education and training; fuel a pipeline of competitive talent for Arizona’s employers; and support economic development efforts to attract and retain business that require a skilled workforce.

The Achieve60AZ effort is gaining national attention for its unique, grassroots, cross-sector collaboration emphasizing the strong connections between commerce and education as well as growth and equity. 

With the help of grants from the Helios Education Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, we are operationalizing Achieve60AZ to realize a sustainable structure to support the statewide attainment goal.  An Organizational Leadership Council is helping to develop the effort’s structure, vision, mission, and overarching objectives. 

As the structural elements are put into place, Achieve60AZ will convene the Alliance and additional stakeholders to begin the collaborative strategic planning work in support of the attainment goal. 

While the statewide attainment goal is bold, together we can achieve 60%.

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