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Business, Education, and Community Leaders Ring the Alarm on Lagging College Attainment in Arizona
By Kristy Jozwiak - Friday Jun 16, 2023
Education Forward Arizona President and CEO Rich Nickel joined Phoenix College President Dr. Kimberly Britt; Maricopa County Community College District Chancellor Dr. Steven R. Gonzalez; and Bank of America Phoenix President Scott Vanderpool to ring the alarm for the attainment shortfall in Arizona, talk about how it could negatively impact our state, and share solutions for solving the problem.

Recent polls consistently show that Arizonans place education as their number one issue – and with college attainment lagging the state’s goal and the national average, urgent action is needed.

In order to meet the state’s Achieve60AZ goal, which calls for 60 percent of Arizona adults to have a college degree or certificate by 2030, the state will need approximately 500,000 more adults with a post-secondary degree, certificate or license in the next seven years. Increasing the number of adults completing degrees/certifications brings huge financial benefits to the state, drives economic growth, builds strong communities, and creates recession resiliency.

Education Forward Arizona recently launched "Everything to Gain" – a campaign to highlight the benefits in our economy, workforce, communities and as individuals – when students continue their education after high school. The campaign works to ensure Arizonans throughout the state hear about, become familiar with, and see significant increases in degree and certificate attainment as a statewide imperative.

Education Forward Arizona President and CEO Rich Nickel said, “Fewer than half of Arizona’s graduating high school seniors enroll in some form of higher education. We must do better. To address this gap, Education Forward Arizona is leading a statewide effort to garner cross-sector support for increasing degree and certificate completion.”

President of Phoenix College and longtime educator Dr. Kimberly Britt, said, “For the future of Arizona and every single one of its residents – students and adults alike – we must work together to increase access to post-secondary attainment opportunities and maximize program completion rates. Only then will we significantly increase the number of degrees and certificates in our state and ensure that we hit our goal – and Arizona’s students have everything to gain if we do.”

Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, Chancellor of Maricopa County Community College District, said, “Arizona has one of the lowest postsecondary attainment rates in the nation. Should we fix that, the benefits are immense. National research shows that college education has only grown more valuable over time as the income gap between different levels of educational attainment continues to increase.”

Bank of America Phoenix President Scott Vanderpool said, “Investing in education and training beyond high school can increase prosperity – for individuals, for our workforce, and for our state. It is also critical that our educators can help students connect their degrees (or certifications), regardless of the discipline, to the many career opportunities that can be found.”
Zeke Fuentes, a recent ASU graduate and Education Forward Arizona scholar, said, “I believe that college will help to break the cycle of poverty for me and my family. Everyone should have the opportunity I had to go to college – and to use college to make their lives better and to make their communities better.”

Fact: 66.2 percent of Arizona voters believe that school funding is too low, and 64 percent strongly favor pursuing policies that help working adults build their job skills and earn a diploma or degree. This support reflects the broad and growing support mirrored in communities across the state.

About Education Forward Arizona
Education Forward Arizona is a statewide education advocacy organization dedicated to championing education as the key driver to improving Arizona’s economy and quality of life. Education Forward Arizona serves as the leading voice for promoting the state’s Achieve 60AZ education attainment goal and a shared action plan to move the goals of the Arizona Education Progress Meter forward.

The organization’s work also includes mobilizing people and communities to advocate for policies and funding to improve educational outcomes across the Pre-K to postsecondary continuum, as well as providing scholarships and programs that improve postsecondary attainment for Arizona’s diverse student population. Learn more at