Arizona aims to boost Latino degree attainment

Stakeholders worry that economic gaps could grow if degree attainment does not increase.

degree-attainmentEducating every student in Arizona is essential to ensuring the state’s economic prosperity, yet a growing portion of Arizona’s future workforce is falling short of essential degree attainment, a group of Arizona stakeholders said. This is particularly true of the fastest growing demographic in the state – the Latino population.

Arizona has an opportunity to lead the nation in closing the Latino student achievement gap and secure a future where every student, regardless of zip code, is prepared to succeed and become an active contributor to the state’s viable and growing economy.

Vince Roig, Founding Chairman of Helios Education Foundation, Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation addressed these issues to local business and community leaders at an event on Thursday, April 30, 2015.

(Next page: What leaders said about increasing Latino degree attainment)

“If we do not address the Latino degree attainment gap in Arizona, our state risks becoming a second or third-tier economy,” said Vince Roig, Founding Chairman, Helios Education Foundation. “We are positioned for either greatness or peril. We must commit to greatness and take advantage of the unique opportunity we have to lead the nation in recognizing Latino student success as a true economic imperative.”

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. However, only 35 percent of Latino adults in Arizona have any post high school training and a mere nine percent of Latino adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of Arizona’s population and Latino students are the largest proportion of our state’s total K-12 population. Yet Latino students trail their White peers in almost every education assessment category, including high school graduation rates. That, combined with the fact that Latinos are the largest segment of this state’s future workforce, makes the Latino education achievement gap Arizona’s top economic imperative.

“As a New American University, ASU is redefining higher education to increase access to a quality education, an effort that extends across all of Arizona’s income levels and communities.” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University. “We are also committed in our charter to taking responsibility for the broader community, for the community where we live and work. Both of these aims require that we address the Latino student achievement gap. Arizona cannot fulfill its greatest potential if it fails to educate the fastest growing populace in the state.”

It is imperative for Arizona’s future economic growth that community leaders from all sectors make Latino student success a priority in Arizona.

Latinos will make up the majority of Arizona’s workforce pipeline tomorrow and far into the future. Improving Latino college success will contribute to Arizona’s ability to expand, attract and retain vital growth industries, and ultimately, to transform Arizona from a low-skill, service economy to a high-skill, knowledge-based economy.

Arizona educators, policy makers, and stakeholders should work together to ensure that all students not only graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and career, but also complete a postsecondary education.

“This issue is one of critical importance to Arizona,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “The good news is that Arizona has a great opportunity to lead the nation in recognizing Latino student success as an economic imperative and develop a blueprint for how we will close the Latino achievement and degree attainment gaps.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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