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Most Arizonans agree post-secondary education a must

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Found in an Education Forward survey, 90% of voters on both sides of the aisle agree that post-secondary education improves quality of life.

Working with Achieve60Az, Education Forward is spreading information and creating opportunities for residents while benefiting the state economy.

“A couple of things happen in this poll that I think for we’re interested in,” said CEO of Education Forward, Richard Nickel. “We found that that we have broad bipartisan agreement, which you know, if you listen to the political shows, you wouldn’t think that anybody agrees on anything.”

Achieve60Az works toward having 60% of residents ages 25-64 obtain a degree, certificate or apprenticeship by 2030. This initiative was created to make a better and more profitable workforce through having educated employees.

Post-secondary education is not limited to education gained at a college, but apprenticeships, trade schools and other certifications gained through training or classes.

Rich Nickel

“These are voters, you know, three quarters of voters demanding that our state do more,” Nickel said. “Our state should do more in our candidates, and all elected officials need to realize this is a winning issue.”

Mentioned by Nickel in the Arizona Capitol Times Morning Scoop, Arizona achieving the goal set by Achieve60Az has the potential to add $5 billion into the state economy annually.

“Businesses are the end consumer of the education product,” said Monica Villalobos, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  “We need to make it part of our economic strategy for a stronger economy.”

Nickel said business leaders support having an educated workforce.

“Traditionally, business leaders have always understood that workforce development does equal education development. They need to really get behind that message,” Nickel said “Not just get behind it by saying it, but also get behind it by using their influence to encourage elected officials and candidates to invest in education.”

As of 2022, Arizona was at 48% of 60%, an additional 500,000 students are needed to complete the goal according to Education Forward Az.

“Arizona voters do see the value in after high school and want to see the state policy, business and education leaders do more to provide for those opportunities for post-secondary education training,” Nickel said.

Over the past six years Achieve60Az has gotten six percentage points higher towards the goal. Each percentage point is roughly 40,000 degrees or certificates awarded, said Nickel.

“The pursuit of the goal in gaining each of those percentage points along the way we’re bringing thousands and thousands of new people with those degrees, has massive economic and social impact,” Nickel said.

According to the poll, 96% of Arizonans believe there should be access to high quality education for all students.

“Arizonans agree on much more than they disagree on, on our most important issues in our state and they want action on these issues,” said Sybil Francis, President and CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona, during the Morning Scoop discussion.

With overwhelming support for higher education, the purpose of the poll was to gain legislators’ attention on issues Arizonans care about and agree on.

“We should let data lead us in all that we do. We hear too much about hot button issues and not about solutions,” Francis said.

Nickel said having 60% of voters agree on a topic is almost impossible.

“They tell us they literally cannot get 86% of Arizonans to agree that the sky is blue, to have 86% support this goal and understanding the value of that, and then almost 75% demanding that we do more to ensure that a higher share of Arizonans had the opportunity to get that degree or certification, that’s a mandate,” Nickel said.

The poll shows over 90% of voters agree expanding dual enrollment programs or expanding access to career training would be beneficial when trying to obtain the goal.

Dual enrollment programs are offered in high school. Students can earn college credit and high school credit concurrently in select classes.

“Employers are educators and educators are employers. That’s the most important message that I took away from this poll,” Villalobos said.

Nickel said Arizona is last in the nation for counselor to student ratio. In 2021-2022 there were roughly 651 student per counselor, according to the American Counselor Association.

According to the poll over 80% of voters believe there should be more counselors in schools. Students gain post-secondary information about all avenues through counselors.

“Counselors really have the opportunity to be the most helpful to students, as far as thinking about what they want to do after high school, and how to get there,” Nickel said. “We lack this, just the scale to do that, and the capacity to do that. A lot of students around our state are not getting the information, data, advice, counseling, they need.”

With support from voters, Nickel believes as long as the state continues working toward the goal of Achieve60AZ there will continue to be massive economic and social benefits.

“As long as we are growing, we know the impact of pursuing that goal is going to be worth all the work we’re doing,” Nickel said.

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