Low-income students hold key to Ariz. future

September 21st, 2014

ASU President Michael Crow is part of a university alliance to improve graduation rates for low-income students. (Photo: Photo by Andy DeLisle, AZCentral.com )
ASU President Michael Crow is part of a university alliance to improve graduation rates for low-income students. (Photo: Photo by Andy DeLisle, AZCentral.com )

Kudos to ASU President Michael Crow for leading the critical work of the University Innovation Alliance (“ASU-led alliance aims to lift grad rates for low-income students,” AZ Republic, Tuesday).

As Crow and institutional leaders nationwide have recognized, our collective economic and civic future is dependent on closing the college-access and achievement gap that exists for so many low-income, first-generation and minority students.

In Arizona, 64 percent of all jobs will require a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2020. Yet today, only 35 percent of people in the state hold those credentials. As we mark National Hispanic Heritage Month, the degree-attainment rate — only 17 percent by recent measures — of our growing Latino population deserves particular consideration.

To address this challenge, we need to orient middle- and high-school students to the college-admissions process and get them ready for college-level material before they arrive on campus.

We need to provide undergraduates with intensive, ongoing and personalized mentoring and support services that will increase their chances of graduating on time. And we need to ensure, through private and public channels, that students who need it have access to sufficient funding for their education.

College graduates earn more over the course of their lifetimes, benefit from lower unemployment rates and offer skills needed by 21st-century employers.

Our state stands to benefit from additional graduates, too.

For every 1,000 new college graduates, Arizona will realize an additional $2 million in taxpayer revenue.

By building public will for more college graduates and providing services to support that goal, we can improve the lives of individual students and the overall economy of our state and nation.

Rich Nickel

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