The start of a new school year is a busy time for many. As students across the country return to the classroom this fall, Education Forward Arizona is especially busy. The nonpartisan nonprofit is not only distributing more than $2.3 million in scholarship funds to colleges and universities across the country, but also supporting more than 500 Arizona scholars with one-on-one mentoring and support services for the 2023-24 school year.
“By securing funding and providing mentoring and support services for these deserving student scholars, we are ensuring that they can successfully navigate their postsecondary education path, persist through higher education, and graduate with a degree or credential,” said Rich Nickel, president and CEO of Education Forward Arizona. “Our state has everything to gain when we increase the number of students who advance their education beyond high school.”
According to Education Forward Arizona, the state’s latest Education Progress Meter datain 2021, only 47.3% of Arizona high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary programs (compared to 46.8% in 2020). The data is even more startling for students from racially and ethnically diverse populations: 41.3% for Hispanic/Latino students, 46.3% for African American students, and 31.8% for Native American students. More than half of White students (52.7%) enrolled in post-secondary programs.
Education Forward Arizona’s team is dedicated to closing attainment gaps and increasing the number of students who pursue and gain a postsecondary education. One such student is 18-year-old Ahmed Nasr, an African American scholar from Phoenix who is beginning his first year of college at Arizona State University this fall, majoring in computer science. Nasr’s Education Forward Arizona scholarship was funded by Helios Education Foundation; he is also receiving mentoring support services from Education Forward Arizona as part of the scholarship package he earned.
Nasr said that his participation in robotics and dual enrollment courses influenced his decision to pursue a postsecondary education in software engineering. Taking college classes while in high school (at GateWay Early College High School, located on the campus of GateWay Community College) allowed Nasr to earn both an associate in science degree and an associate in arts degree.
According to Nickel, the state needs to inspire and guide more students to advance their education beyond high school. “We need to show students that college is not out of their reach,” he said.
For 60 percent of Arizona adults to be equipped with a college degree or certificate by 2030, the state will need approximately 500,000 more adults to earn a post-secondary degree, certificate, or license in the next seven years.
“Our state’s college degree and postsecondary certification shortfall is alarming,” said Nickel. “What often goes unacknowledged is what the degree and certification gap costs Arizona in social and economic terms, from meeting our workforce needs, building strong communities, and creating recession resiliency.”
To help close the gap, Education Forward Arizona is leading a statewide effort to boost awareness of the need for more students to advance their education with a college degree or certificate. “We cannot fill this gap alone,” said Nickel. “It takes all kinds of bright minds, creative collaborations, and impactful partnerships to move the needle.”
Education Forward Arizona is also expanding and growing the state’s scholarship and mentoring funding through collaborative partnerships. The nonprofit currently collaborates with Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, Freeport McMoRan Foundation and Helios Education Foundation to fund scholarships and mentoring support services for Arizona scholars.
Education Forward Arizona has worked with students enrolled in postsecondary education for more than 18 years to provide support services that empower them to persist and thrive through college and beyond.
To view available scholarships currently being offered through Education Forward Arizona, visit https://educationforwardarizona.org/innovate/attainment/scholarships/
To collaborate with Education Forward Arizona to help fund scholarships and mentoring programs for Arizona students, call (602) 636-1850 or visit https://educationforwardarizona.org/engage/support-our-work/.
Education Forward Arizona was created to change the way people think about and support education as the key driver to improving the economy and quality of life in Arizona. The organization’s work includes providing scholarships and innovative programs to students and advocating for policies and funding that move the Achieve60AZ postsecondary attainment goal and other Arizona Education Progress Meter goals forward. Learn more at EducationForwardArizona.org