February 14, 2024

Editorial: Postsecondary Education by Mayor Kate Gallego

We are so pleased to see Mayor Kate Gallego share her sentiments on the importance of postsecondary attainment. Read this excerpt from her opinion piece featured in the Phoenix Business Journal:

My View: Why Arizona is all in for postsecondary education

By Mayor Kate Gallego – Contributing writer

Feb 14, 2024

Arizona is facing a critical decision point about the future of our economy.

A 21st-century economy requires educated workers, yet only about half of working adults in our state have earned a degree, credential or certificate. If that doesn’t change, our state’s future growth could stall, and people will struggle to find good jobs that help them make ends meet.

We have an opportunity to turn the tide – to invest in our postsecondary education options and help all Arizonans prepare to succeed in in-demand career paths. 

A recent analysis from Helios Education Foundation and Education Forward Arizona suggests that if we increase postsecondary enrollment by just 20%, Arizona will increase its annual economic gains by $5 billion. That’s why many education and business leaders have already committed themselves to the Achieve60AZ Action Plan, our state’s goal to ensure that, by the end of the decade, at least 60% of adults ages 25-64 complete education beyond high school.

New data from Education Forward Arizona, however, reports that the attainment rate remains at 48%, and key indicators of success, such as reading and math scores and graduation rates, have stalled. 

We need an additional 500,000 Arizonans to earn a degree, certificate, or other credential before 2030 to avoid major economic challenges both here in Phoenix and statewide.

We are encouraged that public opinion data shows Arizonans of all political beliefs support this goal, and they want state leaders to accelerate plans to foster postsecondary opportunities that can lift students into great careers. 

We are committed to marshaling the resources we need to achieve our goal.   

In Phoenix, we work closely with universities, community colleges, and job training facilities to focus on educating for in-demand careers. We have worked with the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) to help meet the demands of our burgeoning semiconductor industry by creating an associate’s degree in semiconductor manufacturing and a six-week certificate program, empowering students to get started in the field while pursuing a degree.

Local efforts backed by state, federal funds

We are investing in our west-side community with the Innovation 27 Workforce Training and Education Collaborative. Our partners from Arizona State University, MCCCD, and Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) will create a hub for advanced training and upskilling. When the facility opens this fall, it will prepare individuals for jobs in public safety, bioscience, information technology, food innovation, and health care.

We have also used federal Covid funds to address immediate economic needs. In the Route to Relief program, MCCCD has streamlined admissions and provided up to $5,000 in aid for course costs, textbooks, childcare, transportation and more. 

These local efforts build upon state investments to expand access to postsecondary education. Last year, the state legislature invested $12 million to boost Arizona’s dual enrollment program, with a particular focus on supporting school districts in low-income areas. We must do more in this area. 

Now is the time to act. We are in a rare moment of consensus – an overwhelming majority of Arizonans know that postsecondary education is vital to a thriving economy and flourishing society. Let’s work together to meet our Achieve60AZ goal to create a future where every Arizonan has the tools they need to succeed.