Arizona’s college education shortage

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While annual public polls consistently show Arizonans place education as their number one issue, college attainment lags below the national average. Arizona faces a severe shortage of adults with postsecondary degrees and certifications.

This can cause a significant issue for our workforce needs, building communities and recession resiliency. Arizona set a goal of ensuring at least 60% of Arizona’s adults have a postsecondary degree or credential by the end of the decade. To reach that goal, the state will need to award more than 500,000 college degrees and certificates in the next seven years. Rich Nickel, President and CEO of Education Forward Arizona, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss this issue, its cause and how to fix it.

There was a significant dip that occurred during the pandemic, Nickel said, adding we are now seeing it start to level out, but we need to start focusing on how to give people pathways to workforce opportunities.

“We need to really encourage more people in our state to graduate from high school and then take advantage of these opportunities in a postsecondary institution, a community college, university, a trade school, whatever form they think is right for them,” Nickel said.

What is the impact on the workforce?

“We think we need about 500,000 additional people with degrees and certificates in our state by 2030 to meet our state’s attainment goal, which you may know as the ‘Achieve60AZ’ attainment goal. There’s a lot of work to do. The good news is it doesn’t just come from our high school pipeline. It also comes from people who move to our state that might have a degree or adults who may have gone to college but did not get that degree and are re-skilling or up-skilling. So there’s a lot of momentum, but right now we are still seeing a pretty wide gap that we need to address,” Nickel said.

Rich Nickel, President and CEO of Education Forward Arizona

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