Why is Arizona undertaking College Goal Arizona?
As compared to other states across the nation Arizona has:
1. One of the lowest college going rates with only 53.5% of the 2012 seniors enrolling in a postsecondary education experience leaving 27,600 students with no further education options, likewise
2. One of the lowest college attainment rates with only 24% of a senior class (2006) graduating from a 2-year or 4 year postsecondary institution 6 years following high school graduation; and only
3. 26% of all Arizonans over the age of 25 holding a bachelor's degree or higher.
Why are we approaching this problem through the high schools? Contributing factors to these disappointing postsecondary education outcomes include two unique factors:
1. Only 33% of all K-12 students have a head of household with any college experience
2. 52% of all K-12 aged Arizona children live at 200% of the federal poverty level or below
These outcomes coexist with the prediction by Anthony Carnevale from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute that 3 out of five jobs in Arizona, or 61%, will require some training beyond high school by 2018. No longer is high school graduation the finish line. Arizona must improve the education outcomes of our K-12 and postsecondary education systems in order to meet projected workforce and social capital needs.
What Do We Need to Overcome? Lack of an adult guide and affordability...
The College Board's 2011 "Complexity in College Admission" reported that low-income students have a greater disparity between aspirations and enrollment, highly value personal support from school personnel and college representatives, and, unsurprisingly, are more likely to be concerned about costs of college.
The college enrollment process is complex, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is daunting, and only 33% of Arizona students live with a head of the household who has college experience. First generation families lack the experience and knowledge to guide a student through the complexities of the college application process. Furthermore, even though many of the students from these families would qualify for the Pell grant, the lack of experience and confidence to navigate these seemingly complex financial forms too often deters the applicant and his/her family.
Assessing the outcomes and the unique characteristics of Arizona's K-12 population, it is apparent that a solution at the school level is imperative. Our K-12 leadership is taking responsibility to make a difference with College Application Campaign in November and College Goal FAFSA in February.
What Will Make a Difference?
High schools across the state are stepping up to advise and guide the seniors and their families through this challenging milieu of decisions and timeliness. They are building a college-going community where staff lead and a cohort approach among peers supports first generation and low-income students as they apply to a postsecondary institution and file the FAFSA.