Arizona’s education attainment rate is substantially lower than the U.S. average, due in large part to low college participation and retention rates. Recent high school graduates are less likely to enroll in college compared to other states and significant gaps exist between whites and Hispanics on all postsecondary measures. Addressing these disparities poses challenges to state lawmakers, but also presents opportunities since these populations will comprise the largest slice of Arizona’s workforce for the coming decades. Policymakers also should consider strengthening financial aid to boost postsecondary participation and encourage students to pursue credentials in high-demand fields. While the legislature has enacted policies related to college and career preparation and academic transfer, a statewide strategy that identifies specific goals and metrics could increase postsecondary attainment and spur economic growth.
How does Arizona rank compared to the national average?
Adults 25-64 with college degrees: 36th (34.8% vs. 38%)
High school graduates going directly to college: 45th (51.4 vs. 63.3%)
STEM credentials awarded per 1,000 STEM employees: 8th (77.1% vs. 54.4)
Undergraduate awards per 100 FTE undergraduates: 19th (20.5 vs. 19%)
Workers with college degrees earning low wages: 22nd (24.2% vs. 22.9%)
For more information, please see the following documents:
The college attainment rate in Arizona is substantially lower than the U.S. average and most states, due in large part to low college participation and retention rates. Low attainment is a byproduct of several forces. The first is low rates of participation among recent high school graduates, Second, low degree completion rates, especially among adults age 18-24, negatively impacts postsecondary attainment. Third, pronounced attainment gaps exist between whites and Latinos. Increasing participation among Latinos and young adults could significantly improve attainment. Finally, the influx of working age adults without a college credential into Arizona poses capacity problems—both for the postsecondary system and for the workforce. While wages for college graduates are fairly stable, economic growth in four sectors—health, STEM, education and finance—might be masking low wages in other fields.
Boosting College Completion has produced a comprehensive 50-state legislative database related to college completion and workforce development. The database will grow as we continue to collect and analyze policies.
Highlights of Arizona’s policies:
Creating an Alternative High School Credential — H.B. 2731 (2010)
Concerning the Early Graduation Scholarship Program –H.B. 2736 (2010)
Involving Community College Reporting of Dual Enrollees – H.B. 2040 (2010)
Involving Common Course Numbering & General Education Curricula – S.B. 1186 (2010)
Drafting the 21st Century Health Care Workforce Plan – Executive Order (2008)
Establishing the Early Graduation Scholarship Program – S.B. 1183 (2007)
Check out the BCC database for a more complete summary of Arizona’s policies. Click on the Menu arrow for additional options, such as printing the summary.
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Boosting College Completion has developed a policy profile for Arizona based on an analysis of data and policies related to college completion and workforce development.
One in three Arizonans is under the age of 25 and three in 10 are Hispanic. Both populations enroll in college and complete degrees at lower rates than the state norm. With these groups comprising the largest slice of the state’s workforce for the next 25 years, improving their educational attainment is essential to Arizona’s economic future.
Other factors, like explosive population growth, double-digit spikes in postsecondary enrollment and funding cuts, will impact higher education and the workforce. While the state legislature has enacted policies related to college and career preparation and academic transfer, Arizona will not see significant improvement in education and economic growth indicators without a statewide strategy that identifies specific goals and metrics for increasing postsecondary attainment.
In developing a statewide strategy, the legislature might consider:
Evaluating whether current state and institutional strategies promote on-time graduation, reduce student debt and encourage enrollees to complete degrees in high-demand fields
Connecting education and workforce data to find out what college graduates are earning, the fields they are employed in and the value of their degrees to the workforce
Providing incentives for institutions to redesign programs of study so that they accelerate learning, reduce time-to-degree and increase postsecondary productivity
Examining how to increase state capacity to meet the demand for more baccalaureate and professional degrees
Scaling successful institutional programs that produce higher participation and retention rates among young adults and Latinos at a low relative cost.
News & Updates
Sen. Rich Crandall, Chair, Education Committee
Rep. Doris Goodale, Chair, Education Committee
Rep. Tom Forese, Chair, Higher Education, Innovation and Reform
Arizona is participating in the following national initiatives that are related to college completion and workforce development:
American Diploma Project (ADP)
Common Core Standards Initiative
Making Opportunity Affordable (MOA)
PARCC Assessment Consortium
Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT)
The following resources were produced by Boosting College Completion, state agencies and postsecondary systems.