2023 Free Application Days Saved Colorado Students $2.8 Million

Thursday, January 18, 2024

DENVER - Today, Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Higher Education announced that 2023 Colorado Free Application Days saved students $2.8 Million dollars in college application fees, or between $50-80 per application, which could be hundreds in savings for students who apply to multiple schools.  Colorado students submitted nearly 65,000 college and university admissions applications during the sixth annual statewide initiative, which took place from Tuesday, Oct. 17 through Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. This year Governor Polis announced Colorado Free Application Days via video. 

“Since day one of my administration I have focused on saving Coloradans money. From lowering housing costs to waiving application fees to start your higher education, in Colorado we are focusing on reducing costs and expanding opportunity. I am thrilled that students continue to take advantage of this program which saves money and removes barriers to make college more attainable for all,” said Governor Polis  

Participating institutions received 64,784 applications, a more than 1% increase over last year’s campaign. University of Colorado Boulder (CU) led with 11,346 applications, followed by Colorado State University (10,203) and University of Colorado Colorado Springs (5,433). Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado State University ended application fees for Colorado residents. The University of Northern Colorado hosts Free Application Days on October 1, December 1, February 1 and April 1 each year. Beginning Fall 2024, UNC Free App Days are open to students applying to undergraduate or graduate programs of study.

By eliminating application fees, Colorado Free Application Days are designed to boost the state’s college-going rate and make progress toward the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s (CDHE) strategic goal to erase equity gaps—the racial disparities in higher educational enrollment and graduation. Nearly half of the applications (28,213) were submitted by students of color, and more than a third were submitted by first-generation students (22,044)—two target groups that have historically lower college enrollment rates in Colorado. While data suggests racial and ethnic disparities still remain, this program works to ensure that application fees do not deter Coloradans from aspiring to gain a degree.

“To date, students have saved nearly $13 million in application fees over the six-year course of this campaign,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of CDHE. “We want to thank our colleges and universities for putting students first and continuing to support this effort.”

The state also tracks the number of applications submitted without SAT/ACT scores. Starting in 2021, Colorado state law stipulates that public four-year colleges and universities do not need to require SAT or ACT scores for the admission process. Of four-year college/university applications, 70% of applicants applied without test scores (8% increase from last year’s program). Further, 71% of first-generation students, 78% of Native American, 84% of African American or Black and 81% of Hispanic or Latinx applied without test scores on Free Application Days (70% of White students applied without test scores) – all increases from last year.
This year’s Colorado Applies Month effort reached nearly 3,000 students from 39 schools and organizations, which hosted more than 30 college application and FAFSA/CASFA completion events statewide.

Comcast and Telemundo donated airtime and video production services to create a 30-second public service announcement in English and Spanish, featuring Gov. Jared Polis. The spot aired in October on various cable channels for viewers in mountain communities, the Denver metropolitan area and Northern and Southern Colorado. 

Most colleges offer application fee waivers year-round for eligible families. You can learn more about how to request fee waivers by visiting the CDHE website.
For more information on Colorado Applies Month and Colorado Free Application Days, visit https://cdhe.colorado.gov/cofreeappdays.

About the Colorado Department of Higher Education
Working with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, we support students, advocate and develop policies to maximize higher education opportunities for all. The Department believes every Coloradan should have an education beyond high school to pursue their dreams and improve our communities. Read the strategic plan, Building Skills in an Evolving Economy.