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New Report Identifies Key Barriers to College Access in Rural Arizona

October 11th, 2018



Key Barriers to College Access in Rural Arizona Identified in New Report

College Success Arizona’s Findings Shed Light on Ways to Support Low-Income and First-Generation Families

Date:  October 11, 2018

Phoenix, Arizona – Today, College Success Arizona released a new report, How Information and Opportunity Gaps Limit College-Going in Rural Arizona, that examines barriers that rural students in Arizona—many of whom are Latino, low- income, or first-generation students—face in learning about their education and career options after high school.

“These groups are underrepresented in higher education; increasing their postsecondary education participation and success will be essential to reaching our statewide attainment goal—set by Achieve60AZ—of ensuring that 60 percent of Arizonans, ages 25-64, hold a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2030,” said Rich Nickel, CEO of College Success Arizona. “Creating programs and policies that reduce the barriers to information and postsecondary opportunities represents an essential step in this direction.”

The report focuses on the structural factors that can inhibit students in rural communities from accessing timely, reliable information and advising regarding different college options, the application process, financial aid, and careers that require a postsecondary education. The report also highlights the family and personal factors— such as parents’ limited knowledge of the higher education system, socioeconomic status, and proximity to a college or university—that affect college-going rates in rural areas.

College Success Arizona conducted focus groups with students and parents in rural communities across the state. These focus groups were conducted in May 2018, at high schools in each community. College Success Arizona also conducted supplemental interviews with school administrators throughout Arizona.

“Students don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know where to look. And they don’t know what to look for. For many students, their parents may not have gone to college, and so they may not know what colleges offer and they may not know what programs there are to find out what the options are,” said one rural school administrator, summing up the challenges the information gap poses for students and families in the community.

The project, supported by Freeport-McMoRan Inc., is part of a larger effort by College Success Arizona to create a statewide framework for enhancing the quality and volume of college readiness and access to information, as well as to create knowledge and develop behaviors that can improve the college-going culture in the state.

College Success Arizona is committed to helping more students in our state access a postsecondary education and attain a certificate or degree that will enable them to compete in Arizona’s increasingly dynamic workforce and provide them with greater economic mobility. Central to our work is an ongoing effort to identify and understand the barriers that prevent students in Arizona from applying to, enrolling in, and graduating from a postsecondary institution.

This is the fifth brief in College Success Arizona’s Policy Brief Series, which focuses on important issues that affect higher education access and attainment in the state. The other briefs in the series can be found here.

About College Success Arizona: College Success Arizona is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization working to significantly increase the post-secondary attainment rate of students in Arizona, particularly for those who otherwise would not be able to attend or graduate. The organization was started as the Arizona College Scholarship Foundation in 2005. For more information about College Success Arizona and its partners, visit

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