High school graduation season is almost upon us and while most graduating seniors are preparing to turn their tassels, more students ought to be thinking about how they will continue their education. Did you know that by 2018, 61 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require some postsecondary training beyond high school?
Here in Arizona, only 52 percent of high school graduates pursue any form of higher education after graduating high school and many of those students never actually complete a certificate of degree. This serious issue calls into question our future quality of life and poses a real threat to the vitality of our state’s economy.
The Getting AHEAD (Access to Higher Education and Degrees) project was prompted by the very alarming reality that Arizona lags the nation in the percentage of adults with a higher education degree while the majority of the jobs in the 21st century will require post-secondary training. Now more than ever before, Arizona high school students need to be prepared for completing the next step in their educational journey for a successful career. And, for our state to remain economically competitive, we require a new model for higher education that is focused on college and career preparation, improved student access and affordability and operational efficiency. This new model is currently underway through Getting AHEAD.
To meet our state’s educational and economic demand, Arizona’s higher education leaders have forged new partnerships that allow for a seamless transition from a community college to one of the universities, established new locations around the state for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree and expanded online degree offerings.
In fact, new data shows that the number of students transferring from a community college to a university is up by nearly a thousand over the last two years, from 8,995 in 2008-09 to 9,784 in 2010-11. The same goes for the number of Arizona community college transfer students who were awarded a bachelor’s degree from one of Arizona’s state universities; that figure has jumped from 5,772 in 2008-09 to 6,471 in 2010-11.
There are now more than 1,200 pathway programs between Arizona’s community colleges and universities, many of which offer a prescribed set of courses that keep students on track toward their degree and offer guaranteed admission into a university. In some cases, students can save up to 50 percent on the cost of a bachelor’s degree and complete it without ever having to leave a community college campus. NAU-Yavapai and ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City are examples of new university locations offering select bachelor’s degrees with a lower tuition rate than at the main university campuses. And, in the case of NAU-Yavapai, students have the option of completing their degree in three years. Approximately 12,000 students are taking advantage of these new access points.
Although Arizona’s higher education landscape looks much different today than it did just a few years ago, this work means little if we don’t continue to work in tandem with leaders across the entire education continuum to raise awareness about the opportunities that exist in higher education and the importance of planning for college and career. Only through that communication and collaboration will we ensure a strong pipeline of students moving from K-12 to higher education and ultimately positively impacting our economy.
An important resource for students and parents in that process is the website www.aztransfer.com. Just as the name indicates, this website helps students transfer from high school to community college to university. It provides valuable information about how students can earn college credit while still in high school, how community college courses transfer to a university, what pathway programs are available and how to apply to a degree program.
Whether you are still in school, looking to advance your career skills, or are ready to take that step toward completing your degree, Getting AHEAD is making it more convenient and affordable for Arizonans to complete their educational journey and embark on their career. We encourage all who can benefit from these resources to take advantage of them and to spread the word to family and friends.
Rufus Glasper is chancellor of the Maricopa County Community Colleges District. Tom Anderes is president of the Arizona Board of Regents. Both serve as co-chairs of Getting AHEAD. Get all the latest news about the project online at www.GettingAheadAZ.org, on Facebook at “Getting Ahead — Access to Higher Education and Degrees,” and on Twitter at @GettingAheadAZ.