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K-12 Educating the Next Generation

Education is a high priority in Southern Arizona. Complemented by a K-12 public education system of 63 districts with over 236,000 students as well as 149 charter schools and more than 117 private, self-regulating elementary and secondary schools, Southern Arizona’s well-developed education infrastructure maintains an open ear to the needs of the business community.

For 2022, charter school Basis Oro Valley and public school University High School ranked No. 27 and 28, respectively, and charter school Basis Tucson North ranked No. 48 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the top 100 high schools in the country. Other highly-ranked schools in Arizona from U.S. News and World Report include Sonoran Science Academy and Catalina Foothills High School. In addition, Basis Tucson was lauded as a national model in education in the acclaimed documentary “Two Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution.”

Primary, secondary, university, vocational, and continuing education institutions in Southern Arizona all contribute to the goal of providing a qualified workforce. The region’s educational system reflects the community’s diversity, offering programs at all levels that meet the needs of both student and employer.

Southern Arizona has a healthy high school graduation rate and growing college enrollment statistics. A highly educated population is an important attraction for companies that require a highly-skilled workforce. The amount of the population with bachelor’s degrees is an indicator that companies in high wage industries use to gauge the skill level of the local workforce. 62% of the population of all four counties in Southern Arizona have continued their education at the collegiate level, and 35% have an associate’s degree or higher.

To evaluate schools in Tucson and Southern Arizona, use:

Joint Technical Education District (JTED)

The Pima County JTED is a public high school district that offers premier, tuition-free Career and Technical Education programs to sophomores, juniors and seniors. They serve students from public, private, and charter schools, and students who are home-schooled. JTED also serves students who have not earned a diploma or GED and are under the age of 22. Students may attend JTED classes at one of our Central Campuses, located throughout Pima County, or at one of the satellite locations which are located at all public high schools in Pima County, Santa Cruz Valley, and in Mammoth San Manuel. This program is unique to our region and is a refocus on the types of vocational skills employers in the region need to succeed.

Higher Educational Institutions

The University of Arizona (UArizona), with a mission devoted to excellence in teaching, research, and public service, serves nearly 47,000 students. UArizona is a premier, public research university. The University of Arizona is once again among the nation’s top public research universities with $761 million in total research activity in fiscal year 2020, according to data released December 27, 2021 by the National Science Foundation.  UArizona saw an increase of more than $27 million over its FY 2019 total. The university’s R&D expenditures rank No. 20 among public institutions and No. 35 overall. This ranking places UArizona in the top 4% of all U.S. universities, both public and private. The university also retained its No. 1 ranking in astronomy and astrophysics expenditures at nearly $122 million – an increase of more than $8 million over FY 2019.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the UA among America’s Best Colleges and the Princeton Review lists the UA as one of “The Best Western Colleges.” UArizona ranks No. 89 in the world and No. 48 nationally according to the Center for University World Rankings. UArizona is one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Scholars and has high-ranking schools of business and pharmacy (Eller College of Management and the College of Pharmacy, respectively). UArizona is one of Southern Arizona’s largest employers with 15,530 employees.

The UA College of Engineering offers many outstanding engineering programs, awarding 606 bachelor’s degrees, 182 masters degrees, and 57 doctoral degrees in 2019-20. Arizona Center for Innovation, located at the UA Science and Technology Park, is a high-tech incubator that focuses on important developing areas including aerospace, advance composites, information technology and the life sciences.

Source: UA Fact Book, 2020

Arizona State University is recognized globally as a top-ranked knowledge enterprise focused on solutions to society’s greatest challenges, advancing a better life for all. ASU has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution committed to excellence, access and impact — the New American University. ASU’s charter, adopted in 2014, is the blueprint of that transformation: ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.

Over the last 10 years, ASU has emerged as one of the country’s fastest-growing research universities among those with $100 million+ in annual research expenditures — ahead of Harvard, Yale, Duke and others. It is in the top 10 in U.S. for total research expenditures among institutions without a medical school, in the top 5 in U.S. for interdisciplinary science total research expenditures, in the top 10 in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funding among all U.S. institutions without a medical school and in the top 10 in U.S. for NASA-funded research expenditures.

U.S News & World Report has ranked it the #1 college in the U.S. for Innovation three years in a row, ahead of #2 Stanford and #3 MIT. U.S. News & World Report also ranks more than 40 ASU programs — including engineering, business, science, public affairs, law and education — in the top 25 in the nation. It also ranks ASU #4 for its online undergraduate degree program. Click here to see all of the rankings.

With an enrollment of 127,000 students based at 5-Phoenix area campuses, statewide and online, ASU awards over 27,000 degrees annually. ASU also has the largest number of engineering students in the nation with over 24,000 in various programs (2020).

ASU has had a presence in Tucson and the surrounding area for 40 years. This includes ASU’s School of Social Work, with over 140 students based in Tucson. Three areas of growing activity in the Tucson area are engineering, aerospace and defense, and biomedical—all of which are fields of great strength at ASU.

Partnerships in the Tucson area include Raytheon, which relies on ASU for the second-highest number of its engineers, the space exploration company World View and Roche Tissue Diagnostics, a company focused on tissue-based diagnostic solutions.

Source: ASU Community Relations

Northern Arizona University offers a supportive learning environment that empowers all students to become active, responsible, global citizens. With 158 degree programs, NAU provides exceptional opportunities for 31,000 students—in Flagstaff, at more than 20 locations statewide including southern Arizona, and through NAU Online.
NAU faculty and staff have embraced a student-centered approach for nearly 120 years. We continue that tradition, training healthcare workers, educators, and professionals for the careers of tomorrow and mentoring students at renowned research centers.

  • NAU is the only state university in Arizona accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
  • The Pathogen and Microbiome Institute is internationally recognized for its work on the ecology and epidemiology of disease-causing bacteria.
  • The Center for Ecosystem Science and Society is becoming a major global climate research center.
  • The graduate nursing program is ranked as one of the best in the nation, according to US News & World Report.
  • The School of Restaurant and Hotel Management was named the 12th best hospitality program in the world by CEO World.
  • The fields of engineering and health and life sciences converge at the Center for Bioengineering Innovation.

Through its 2NAU Pathway Program, NAU has pioneered partnerships with community colleges throughout the state, including four Pima Community College campuses. 2NAU gives students a seamless, affordable path to transfer from a community college and earn an NAU bachelor’s degree in Flagstaff or right here in southern Arizona.

In Tucson, NAU serves close to 300 students who are earning degrees in nursing, industrial leadership, special and elementary education, hotel and restaurant management, counseling and educational leadership. NAU also serves hundreds of southern Arizona residents in NAU Online programs.

NAU cultivates the personal growth and professional success of all our students—with academic programs, research initiatives, public service, and creative endeavors that enrich lives in Arizona and across the world.

Source: NAU, Strategic Parternships

Pima Community College (PCC) serves approximately 50,000 students across the greater Tucson metropolitan area at its various locations conveniently spread throughout Pima County. The College offers university-transfer programs, as well as career and technical education/workforce training, , adult basic education/high school equivalency, corporate and customized training, and continuing education courses.

Classes are offered at its six campuses and multiple off-campus locations in a variety of fields, awarding certificates, associate’s degrees and dozens of industry credentials. The College meets the needs of its diverse student population by offering evening, weekend, year-round, online, and accelerated courses.

Thanks in large part to advances in technology, workforce education and training needs are changing rapidly. The College is responding by developing six Centers of Excellence (CoE) focused on Applied Technology, Information Technology, Health Professions, Public Safety & Security, the Arts, and Hospitality. The CoE’s allow for flexible, high-touch/high-tech training, and innovative learning that students need in order to be prepared to succeed in today’s ever-changing, technology-driven workplace.

Source: PCC Workforce Development

The nation’s largest private university for working adults has 4 campuses region-wide. University of Phoenix in Southern Arizona offers both in-classroom and online learning for Associates, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in many disciplines, including popular business, education, and nursing programs.

Source: University of Phoenix Website, 2020

Central Arizona College is a vital and integral part of Pinal County. With five full service campuses and three centers located strategically throughout the region, CAC offers a full array of academic degrees and certificates, online and university transfer courses, career training and personal enrichment courses to nearly 6,000 students.
Source: CAC Website, 2020

Cochise College serves over 10,000 students, offering over 90 degree and technical certificates, including honors curriculum. Education through Cochise College provides accessible educational opportunities that are responsive to a diverse population and lead to constructive citizenship, meaningful careers and lifelong learning.

Source: Cochise College Website, 2020

Trade Schools

Since its beginning in 1926, Embry-Riddle has been providing the world with aviation personnel, one student at a time. A pioneer in aviation education, Embry-Riddle continues to be the most highly regarded institution dedicated to the field. Embry-Riddle enrolls over 34,000 students annually and offers more than 100 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs.

It is the nation’s largest, oldest, and most comprehensive aeronautical university. When you enroll in an aviation-related degree program here, you can be assured that you will study within a curriculum that is at the forefront of the industry’s developments and demands for the future.

Embry-Riddle has a campus on the grounds of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Source: Embry-Riddle Website, 2020

Job Corps’ mission is to educate and train highly-motivated young people for successful careers in the nation’s fastest-growing industries. Job Corps is a U.S. Department of Labor Equal Opportunity Employer Program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. TDD/TTY telephone number is 877 889-5627.

The Fred G. Acosta Job Corps Center supports the Job Corps program’s mission to teach eligible young people the skills they need to become employable and independent and place them in meaningful jobs or further education.

Source: Fred G. Acosta Website, 2021

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Susan Dumon | Senior Vice President, Economic Competitiveness

Daniela Gallagher | Vice President, Economic Development

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