Collaboration on Education, a Bright Spot in the Midst of Controversy

Two men and a woman working in a conference room looking at documents

Arizona has been home for me and my family since 1986. We’re practically natives. Raising children in a state that has been involved in more than its share of controversy over many years has been challenging at times. Nonetheless, I can point to a bright spot of innovation and an area of clarity and vision that persists even in our post Great Recession Economic Recovery. We have a state agency called the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE). It provides a forum where all sectors of education can dialogue, partner and problem solve issues of mutual interest. The governor appointed commission is comprised of leaders from public colleges, and community colleges, private colleges and technical institutions, K-12 and charter schools.

The idea is simple. Let’s get all of the providers of education together and focus on the questions “Who do we serve?” and “How do we best serve them?” By focusing on who our learners are, we can collaborate on providing the knowledge and skill-sets our students need, and employers demand, while shaping attitudes and behaviors to serve the lifelong learners we hope they become. This proved to be a noble call to action that, on face value, seemed easy enough to embrace. And it was! However, along the way we had to learn a great deal about ourselves, our institutional biases, the legislative policy process, the rapidly changing needs of the workforce as well as a minority-to-majority shift in ethnicity in our K-12 educational pipeline! So, are we there yet? Of course not. ACPE still leads and participates in the statewide collaborative efforts.

The commission completed its two-day Developing Arizona’s Human Capital Conference in mid-November. Its purpose was to highlight the ongoing best practice efforts throughout Arizona towards student access, success, and achievement. There are many other areas where ACPE serves as the exemplar for education including managing over $1 billion in the 529 College Savings Plan, maximizing available student financial assistance through state grants, scholarships and forgivable loans, maintaining College Goal Arizona providing a statewide college application campaign promoting all sectors of postsecondary education.

Through the research arm of ACPE, the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center (AMEPAC) conducts research and analysis of policy alternatives and promotes public discourse. A collaborative effort like ACPE may at first behave like an unwieldy chimera, but with a clear mission to serve our students and a sincere effort to effect positive change, we are still a work in progress for the advancement of current and future public aspirations.

If you wish to find out more about the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education contact, Dr. April Osborn, Executive Director, Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education.


About the Author
Fred Lockhart

Fred Lockhart

Fred Lockhart is the executive director for the Arizona Private Schools Association. This group is a voluntary self-regulating association of private universities, colleges, technical schools, and career schools that provide a vast array of educational opportunities. These educational institutions cover the full gamut of postsecondary education: from short-term certificate and diploma programs, to associate and baccalaureate degrees as well as masters and doctoral programs. Its mission is to promote the interests of its members, their executives, faculty, administrators, students, and the employers for whom students are being trained and educated.