By the time today’s preschoolers complete high school, seven of every 10 jobs will require some type of post high school education. To be economically competitive, we must act now to increase the number of Arizonans who have completed an educational program beyond high school.

The Achieve60AZ Alliance of 70 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 by 2030.

The attainment goal acts as a north star as organizations across the state recognize challenges and seek to impact educational 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.

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.

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.

Key to this effort is the focus on diverse pathways. Post high school education includes programs offered through technical institutes or apprenticeships, as well as degree programs at 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 entry and completion in post high school programs; boost adult education and training; fuel a pipeline of competitive talent for Arizona’s employers; and bolster economic development efforts to attract and retain business that require a skilled workforce.

Our effort is bringing Northern Arizona communities together in innovative ways to discuss the links between educational opportunities, a highly skilled and educated workforce and local economic development. Our broad-based, statewide alliance includes leaders from education, philanthropy, community, and business organizations, including the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Northern Arizona University, Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance, LAUNCH Flagstaff, and GEAR UP.

The Achieve60AZ effort is also gaining national attention for its unique, grassroots, cross-sector collaboration emphasizing the strong connections between commerce and education as well as growth and equity. Our broad-based, statewide alliance includes leaders from education, philanthropy, and community organizations along with business organizations.

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 has helped 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 percent.

To learn more, visit: www.achieve60az.com

Julie Pastrick is President and CEO of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce and Rich Nickel is President and CEO of College Success Arizona.

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