Advancing the Economy Through Attainment

Author: Helios Education Foundation

September 24, 2015

Cultivating a growing economy is a topic of much discussion in Arizona. Policy makers and business leaders alike are recognizing the inextricable link between education and the economy. At Helios, we believe that in order to build a sustainable economic climate in the state of Arizona, we must increase the postsecondary degree completion rate. Ensuring students read at grade level by the end of third grade, setting high standards and increased rigor in classrooms and creating a college-going culture are important steps in increasing the number of individuals with a postsecondary certificate, license or degree.

College Success Arizona, a Helios partner focused on building public will for college completion and increasing college graduation rates among low-income and first generation students, recently published the first in a series of policy briefs on the importance and value of increasing the degree attainment rate in Arizona. The brief, Advancing the Economy Through Attainment: What Arizona Can Learn From States With Higher Education Attainment Goals, takes a thoughtful and research-based look at how Arizona compares to other states who have set and are working towards attainment goals. 

Research shows that the most important thing our state can do to improve economic development is to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate. Currently, Arizona’s rate is 37 percent yet Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2020, 68 percent of jobs in Arizona will require some form of postsecondary education. Arizona must focus efforts on closing this gap and increasing the number of degree holders who are prepared to enter the workforce and contribute to long-term economic growth and development. This will also help spur on more immediate economic activity. College Success Arizona estimates that adding 1,000 college graduates to the Arizona workforce would increase state tax revenue by more than $2.2 million every year. 

“This report provides great information about what other states are doing to increase their degree attainment rates,” said Braulio Colón, Vice President and Program Director, Postsecondary Completion at Helios Education Foundation. “These states focus on defining strong goals that are quantifiable, identifying target dates, projecting state labor needs, and most importantly, addressing gaps in attainment between majority and traditionally underserved populations.” 

The report also recommends that Arizona set a statewide attainment goal and asks that state policy makers consider specific actions toward that end. The recommendation is based on national work that Lumina Foundation has done around this concept of attainment which is defined as the percentage of adults with high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials, including both college degrees (associate’s degrees and above) and certificates that lead to further education or employment. 

“As a foundation focused on increasing opportunities for postsecondary success, Helios recognizes and supports the idea of setting a statewide attainment goal,” said Colón. “There is good work being done in Arizona and we are making progress toward increasing postsecondary degree attainment. However, by utilizing the research-based strategies outlined in this report, we believe that the work can be coordinated and multiplied to provide greater impact.” 

Click here to learn more and download the report.

Category: Postsecondary Success

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