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Achieve60AZ – Powerful Tool to Align Education Attainment Efforts Across Arizona

September 21st, 2016

A statement on Achieve60AZ from College Success Arizona President and CEO, Rich Nickel.


Setting a goal is a powerful action. Reaching the goal is fulfilling, but the work produced in pursuit of the goal is the most impactful and lasting.

A not so wise, but very funny professional baseball legend named Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”  As often happened to Berra, his quote became an iconic American saying, not only because it was humorous, but also because it was spot on.

achieve60az-press-conference-from-aboveOver the last year, I have asked many audiences, this seemingly simple question, “Raise your hands if you know Arizona’s state education attainment goal?”  It qualified as a trick question, because until last week, Arizona was one of only a handful of states that did not have an official state attainment goal. On Friday, September the 16th, a group of over 60 community leaders, including College Success Arizona, followed Yogi’s sage advice, and announced the state’s first educational attainment goal. Featuring Governor, Doug Ducey, and several high ranking education and business leaders, the public launch put Achieve60AZ on a great path forward.

The goal is an easy one to state, but an ambitious one to reach.  Achieve60AZ intends to ensure that by the year 2030, 60% of Arizona’s working age adults will hold a professional certificate or college degree.  Today, that number hovers near 42%.

Because we have so many good jobs coming to Arizona over the next few years, it is crucial to create a more highly skilled workforce to fill these positions.  Georgetown University projects that by 2020, 68% percent of Arizona’s jobs will require training greater than a high school diploma.  These increased credentials may range from a certificate to become a highly skilled technician, to a bachelor’s degree in computer science, or a master’s degree in genetics.  Each and every certificate and degree is vital!

It has been well documented over time, including in our report, Doubling Arizona’s Economic Growth, that the fiscal and social impact of increased attainment is immense.  For instance, if attainment levels aligned to our future labor market needs, we would increase economic activity by 12% annually, which would produce economic and social gains of over $7.5 Billion for Arizona.  That is more than 3 times the current growth rate of Arizona’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  It is important to remember that increased attainment doesn’t just lead to more personal income and tax revenue, but also saves us money due to decreased usage of social services like, welfare, healthcare, and prisons.  When talking about education, it is truly, an invest now or pay later option.

College Success Arizona is committed to increasing Arizona’s attainment rate, and by extension, Arizona’s economy. Personally, I believe that Arizona is at one of the most crucial junctures in our state’s history and it is essential that decisions to increase postsecondary attainment are made today. It is also vital to recognize that there will be significant costs associated with a failure to act. We intend to be an active and consistent member of the Achieve60AZ alliance, providing support to the limits of our capabilities in pursuit of aligning Achieve60AZ with educational efforts around the state.

governor-ducey-at-achieve60az-press-conference-twitterWith strong support of a cross-sector of education institutions, business and philanthropy—and with the strong support of Governor Doug Ducey, evident in his powerful comments at the launch event last week—we believe that this effort can be sustained over time, respect existing initiatives among cross-sector partners and even transcend political changes. The hope is that Achieve60AZ will start a new conversation about Arizona’s future that is inclusive of the entire educational pipeline and keeps focus on our state’s workforce and economic needs.

We believe that in the future, Achieve60AZ may even act a central hub from which many educational policies and resources would emanate, all in the pursuit of increasing attainment and improving the future for all Arizonans.

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