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ABOR report highlight issues with high school grads' college enrollment, completion rates

The rates of the Arizona students going to college soon after graduating high school, and completing college within six years continues to be lower than desired, according to  a report presented Thursday at the Arizona Board of Regents' meeting.

The percentage of Arizona adults who earn a two- or four-year degree significantly trails the national average. In 2020, less than half of the state’s high school graduating class enrolled in college, a decline from 2019, the report states. 

The report attributes the drop in college bound high school grads to the pandemic, but says even before COVID-19, Arizona’s college enrollment wasn’t keeping pace with the rest of the nation. 

ABOR’s George Raudenbush presented data which showed that the "lion share" of the state's public high schools, 85% or 438 schools, have 4-year college enrollment rates below the national average. And a majority of Arizona public school students attend these schools, he added. 

This is despite the growing number of public high school graduates since 2011, he said. 

Raudenbush explained to the board what these trends could mean for today’s ninth graders if they persist. 

“Seventy-eight percent of that class would have a high school diploma or lower, 2.2% of that class would have a postsecondary certificate or credential, 3% would have an associates degree, and 16.8% would have a bachelor’s degree or higher," he told the board. 

In addition, the report found that the college completion rates for these high school grads has remained flat over the past five years.

The board is hopeful that a new state scholarship program, the  Arizona Promise, will help more students go to college. It's also discussing other strategies to address these issues. 

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.