Local leaders from around the Yuma area came together on April 16 to evaluate how the region can achieve an ambitious goal of having 60% of adults complete a postsecondary degree.

The event was put on by Achieve60AZ, a non-profit that was launched last year and is dedicated to reaching the goal by 2030. Rachel Yanof, the group's executive director and one of their two employees, presented findings in a “state of attainment report,” during the get-together.

“I find that the work, no matter what level we’re talking about, it’s about the opportunity and economic prosperity of young people,” Yanof said during her speech Tuesday.

The report states that in order to reach their goal, one million more adults have to get degrees or credentials in the next decade.

According to the report, out of the 80% of students that graduate high school, approximately half of them go on to enroll in a two- or four-year institution. And out of those that enroll, only about 27% of them finish.

“Doubling this rate would mean tens of thousands more skilled workers to meet Arizona’s growing workforce needs,” the report reads.

Achieve60AZ also makes suggestions that the state and local communities can take to help raise the number of students who finish degrees.

To increase the number of students that finish high school and go on to college, they recommend, among other things, the expansion of Career and Technical Education programs, streamlining the college enrollment process and increasing the number of career counselors in schools.

In order to make college more accessible to all Arizonans, they suggest measures such as creating “financial-aid programs that support the real cost of attendance,” supporting “K-12 and postsecondary alignment efforts” and ensuring affordable pathways for DACA students to enroll in college.

AWC President Dr. Daniel Corr also spoke last Tuesday, outlining the different measures that the school has put in place to help increase the number of students who move on to and complete college.

Among them are AWC’s low tuition rate for kids in high school and their partnerships with state universities that allow students to complete a four-year degree without leaving Yuma.

“We’re doing it one student at a time and we’re starting with the youth,” Corr said during his speech. “We’re building a culture or a college-going expectation in the communities that we serve.”

There were also many elected officials in attendance, including Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, who spoke on the expectation that his family had for him to go to college, the culture surrounding postsecondary education and the necessity for an educated workforce for Yuma’s growth.

“When companies look to grow and they look to come to Yuma, if we don’t have our citizens here achieving higher and higher educational levels, they just are hesitant to come,” he said. “They don’t understand where the workforce is coming from, where their management level and all their administrators are coming from… so that’s something that I’ve been really focusing on.”

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