Achieve60AZ releases second issue brief

Achieve60AZ, a grassroots alliance with the goal of getting 60 percent of adults to hold either a degree, license or certificate by 2030, released its second issue brief – “Putting the Data to Work.”

“Putting Data to Work” highlights the opportunity to utilize data and collaboration to increase educational attainment, using the Arizona Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Challenge as an example.

“Educational attainment is critical for Arizonan’s prosperity and the state’s economic future,” the brief said. “Systems and structures are inherently embedded in the work we do at a local and state level to increase attainment across all other pillars.”

In Achieve60AZ’s first issue brief, the alliance outlined its State Attainment Pillars: Workplace and Business Development; Postsecondary Access and Success; Early Childhood through High School; and System and Structures.

The organization believes these four areas should align efforts and resources to help the state reach the 60 percent goal, and “Putting the Data to Work” helps complete the systems and structures pillar.

“‘Systems and Structures’ [is] an overarching title acknowledging that to be as effective and efficient as possible we need to look at our systems, look at our structures, look at data,” Rachel Yanof, Executive Director of Achieve60AZ, said. “The biggest take away that I’m hoping people get from the issue brief is that setting a goal based around data is an incredible tool to galvanize action.”  

One strategy Achieve60AZ has identified as a way to reach the goal is the utilization of metrics and data to support thoughtful partnerships and collaboration.

“In order for Arizona to move forward as a state, we must get groups to work together on initiatives like the Arizona FAFSA Challenge,” Dawn Wallace, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Education and Strategic Initiatives said in the brief. “Educational attainment is imperative to the future economic viability and prosperity of our state, and we will not be able to reach 60 percent without collaboration.”

The Arizona FAFSA Challenge goal embodies the idea of “partnership and collaboration” by bringing multiple community groups – Achieve60AZ, Helios Education Foundation, College Success Arizona, the AZ College Access Network, etc. – together in pursuit of raising the number of high school students who fill out FAFSA forms.

Created by the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, the Arizona FAFSA Challenge is to have 50 percent of high school seniors complete a FAFSA by the end of the 2018-19 school year.

After that, the state hopes to increase FAFSA completion by five percent every year until 2030 and become one of the top states for completion.

According to Achieve60AZ, “FAFSA completion equates to greater attainment”  because it removes a financial barrier, but it’s not the silver bullet to fixing the problem.  

“I think we have an opportunity to see if we create a system that says FAFSA is important…we’re having great conversations about taking the ACT [and SAT]…and seeing if [there are] fields that [they’re] interested in. Then there would be a higher attainment level,” Yanof said.

But the Arizona FAFSA Challenge is only one approach to reach the attainment goal.

According to Yanof, another way Arizona can achieve the attainment goal is with a reverse transfer program.

“So, [with] students who start a four-year school but drop out…not just looking at who they are but how many credits they are away from completing a [degree],” she said. “Some students may have started a four-year program they didn’t complete, but might have enough credits to have an Associates Degree. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to look at data around our adult learning population.”

Achieve60AZ is issuing its first state of attainment report Feb. 22.

To read Achieve60AZ’s full “Putting the Data to Work” issue brief, click here.

Emily Richardson

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