Arizona needs more residents to get college degrees to keep up with new high-paying jobs

By Bridget Dowd
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2024 - 2:52pm

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Bridget Dowd / KJZZ
The presidents of Arizona’s three public universities got together on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 to talk about the state of higher education.

Arizona is seeing billions of dollars coming in from leading-edge technology companies. Those companies will create tens of thousands of jobs, but there may not be enough educated Arizonans to fill them.

The presidents of Arizona’s three public universities got together this week to talk about the state of higher education. One of the biggest problems they discussed was that while the state’s economy ranks among the top in the country, Arizona is among the bottom in educational attainment.

Northern Arizona University President José Luis Cruz Rivera said 7 out of 10 high-paying new jobs require some type of post secondary education.

“So unless we figure out, how to create the conditions for more Arizonans to have access to quality educational opportunities and benefit from this booming economy, then we’re not living up to our full potential as a university," Cruz Rivera said.

That’s why NAU created a universal admissions program, where no student who applies will get a letter of rejection. Rather, NAU will offer a new pathway through a community college with guaranteed admission once they’re ready.

Arizona State University's Michael Crow said the university and its students need more consistent investments from the state in order to make college more affordable.

"The state is an up and down, constantly shifting, never-predictable partner," Crow said. "What we need is a consistent, predictable partner helping us to have students from Arizona go to the universities and helping us to invest in particular initiatives."

Crow added that in Georgia, high school students with a B average can go to any of the state's public universities tuition-free.

“OK, that sounds pretty good. That’s helping the kid to be able to go to school," Crow said. "They earn the school that they go in and they fund that from lottery resources. I don’t know what we spend our lottery resources on, but we don’t spend it on that."

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