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Arizona Board of Regents releases latest trends in Arizona college-going and completion

The Arizona Board of Regents today released the latest trends in Arizona college-going and completion rates, detailed in its Fiscal Year 2021 Postsecondary Attainment Report. Data indicates Arizona’s college-going rate declined in 2020-more than half of Arizona’s high school graduates did not enroll in a postsecondary institution following graduation. College completion rates remain essentially flat over the past five years.

Arizona’s level of educational attainment – the percentage of adults who earn a two- or four-year degree – significantly trails the national average. In 2020, less than half – 46.3% − of Arizona’s high school graduating class enrolled in a two- or four-year college or other postsecondary institution, a noticeable decline from the 52.9% enrollment rate in 2019. In comparison, the national immediate college enrollment rate for high school completers in 2019 was 66%.

Among the 2015 high school graduates’ cohort, the group now reaching six years post high school completion, 27.4% completed a two- or four-year degree program after high school, compared to 27.3% in 2011.

For the first time, the Postsecondary Attainment Report includes data for high school graduates who qualify for free- or reduced-lunch, are categorized as English Learners or are diagnosed with a disability and qualify for special education services.

“We know that education is the door to opportunity and creating a college-going culture is one of the board’s paramount priorities,” said ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson. “It is crucial to ensure every high school student in Arizona has access to postsecondary education and can reap the many rewards and benefits of a college degree.”

Chair Manson said the report data is vital to help the board and Arizona leaders gauge the state’s college-going and completion rates – rates that are directly linked to the economic vitality of the state. “The board continues to seek solutions for access and affordability for public higher education, such as the Arizona Promise Scholarship, which will help increase access to Arizona’s world-class public university system.”

Increasing postsecondary attainment is linked to the success of individuals and Arizona’s economy. In 2020, 330,655 public university degree recipients accounted for nearly $23.9 billion in wages in Arizona and paid an estimated $1.7 billion in state taxes.

Compounding low college-going and college-completion rates is Arizona’s corresponding low high school completion rate, which ranks in the bottom quartile of the United States. This means that if Arizona’s high school completion, college enrollment and completion trends stay on their current trajectory, only 16.8% of today’s ninth graders will graduate from a four-year college by 2029.

“Barring a change in the trajectory of postsecondary enrollment, the Arizona workforce will not be equipped to meet the demands of the state’s growing economy,” said ABOR Executive Director John Arnold. “As a state, we need to improve our college-going culture or Arizona’s long-term economic health is at risk.”

While uneven enrollment rates persist across varying demographics, progress is being made among some groups. The number of Black and Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in a four-year institution continues to increase. However, in 2020 Native American enrollment decreased.

The completion gap between Black, Hispanic and Native American graduates and White or Asian graduates has shrunk since 2011, but the gap still persists. Closing the gap is crucial to increasing postsecondary attainment in Arizona as students from underrepresented demographic groups comprise a majority of the state’s K-12 system.

Arizona has set an educational attainment goal that by 2030, 60 percent of Arizona’s population will have a post-high school certificate or degree.

About this report:

The Fiscal Year 2021 Postsecondary Attainment Report examines the 2016 through 2020 high school graduating classes for college enrollment purposes and the 2011 through 2015 high school graduating classes for college completion purposes. The universe of students considered in this report is limited to those who attended public high schools and postsecondary institutions that accept federal financial aid. The report is compiled by matching student information from the Arizona Department of Education with enrollment and college completion data from the National Student Clearinghouse.


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |