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Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University partner to improve college attainment

AWC is the first community college to adopt the program "Arizona Attainment Alliance" to boost Arizona's postsecondary attainment rate - 13 On Your Side's Vanessa Gongora reports

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - As of 2021, only 17% of Yuma County residents have a bachelor's degree or higher education and a 47% employment rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With Arizona's economy booming, universities want to make sure Arizonans have first dibs at the job opportunities that exist in their backyard.

That's why Northern Arizona University (NAU) says it's partnering with Arizona Western College (AWC), nine other community colleges across the state and Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) to improve Arizona's college attainment and completion rate.

AWC's President Dr. Daniel Corr says the "Arizona Attainment Alliance" program, known as "A++" aligns with their strategic plan to double the rate of earned bachelor's degrees in Yuma and La Paz counties by 2035.

But how are they going to make this possible?

"Early education partnering with our K-12 partners, increasing dual enrollment, increasing advising, data sharing," explains Corr. "There's a number of things that we can do to make sure that everyone who wants to earn a baccalaureate degree has that opportunity to do so right here in their hometown or their home County of Yuma in partnership with NAU."

Dr. Corr says the state's attainment rate is behind the nation, an annual shortage of more than 26,000 bachelor's degrees.

One AWC student Zachariah Fowler says the Arizona Attainment Alliance program will help local students stay in school.

"A big benefit, opening more doors and opportunity cause a lot of students at first don't know what they want to be, but once they start seeing all these new branches like business, agriculture," says Fowler. "Once they see what they want, I believe it will have a high increase for us."

According to NAU's President Dr. José Luis Cruz Rivera, schools need to work with employers to make sure they're producing graduates who will excel in this new economy.

"The institutions in the Arizona Attainment Alliance, we have a footprint that expands to 15 counties in the state and serve over 322,000 students," says Dr. Cruz Rivera. "So a lot can be gained by these efforts."

Dr. Cruz Rivera also mentions they are working on strategies for students to come back to school that were once pursuing a college degree but had to discontinue.

"How can we make it easy for them to come back? How can we give them credit for what they have learned in the workplace since they been away from college to accelerate their path to graduation?"

AWC and NAU have been partners for almost 30 years and believe this program will only make them stronger.

"You know when you put a matador and lumberjack together, the result is going to be nothing short of amazing," says Dr. Corr.

A++ launches this fall.

It consists of representatives developing a road map that will make their plan a reality starting next year.

Article Topic Follows: Yuma Education

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Vanessa Gongora

Vanessa Gongora joined the KYMA team in 2022 and is the anchor/producer for CBS at 4 p.m.

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