Governor Polis Releases Roadmap to Make College More Affordable
DENVER - Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) were joined by college and university presidents from across the state as they released a plan to make college more affordable at Community College of Denver today.
The Roadmap to Containing College Costs and Making College Affordable outlines near, medium- and long-term strategies to contain costs and put higher education in reach for all Coloradans. Among the 18 solutions, the state suggests improving access to concurrent enrollment, providing debt relief for students, and lowering health care costs.
“We know that when Coloradans have more access to affordable educational opportunities, they thrive, and the benefits ripple across our state and help our economy,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “This roadmap lays out ways we can lower costs while maintaining high standards. We must work together to help bring down college and community college costs, encourage innovation, and support the next generation of students.”
To help implement the plan, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education established a cost containment subcommittee led by Commissioners Sarah Kendall Hughes and Charlotte Olena, who were appointed by Gov. Polis this July.
Colorado is already making progress on several short-term steps, especially the adoption of Open Educational Resources. A $550,000 CDHE grant program designed to scale these free or low-cost teaching and learning materials on campuses is expected to yield savings nearly seven times greater than the initial investment.
“Over the past decade, our institutions have stepped up with innovative solutions to support our students,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of CDHE. “Their creativity certainly informed this plan, and we look forward to working with higher education leaders to maximize state investment going forward.”
Fort Lewis College, a public four-year institution in Durango, recently launched the new affordability program FLC Tuition Promise. Colorado residents whose family income is $60,000 or less are eligible to attend FLC tuition-free for four years if pursuing their first bachelor’s degree.
“Fort Lewis College is dedicated to providing affordable degrees for residents and will continue to innovate with solutions, like the FLC Tuition Promise, that best serve the students of Colorado,” said Tom Stritikus, president of FLC. “Our strategies for access, fiscal sustainability, and student success align with the State’s, and we’re ready to move the needle for higher education in Colorado.”
Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon and Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument were also on hand for the announcement.
Improving access to education and training is especially urgent for Colorado’s economy, which boasts some of the most advanced workforce needs in the country. About 75 percent of all Colorado jobs and 97 percent of top ones—those that pay a living wage and have high growth rates—require a postsecondary credential. To help meet these industry demands, CDHE aims to reach 66 percent educational attainment by 2025, up from 56.9 percent currently.
“Every college and university in Colorado—research universities, state colleges, community colleges and technical colleges—is committed to affordable access to an education that helps the student attain their goals. Governor Polis’ roadmap shares that same goal—access to excellence—and that goal has been a part of his personal commitment to education for as long as I’ve worked with him,” said. Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the Colorado State University System. “It’s a goal all of us in higher education share because we know education changes lives and improves the society we all share.”
The roadmap follows the release of CDHE’s first return on investment report, Colorado Rises: Maximizing Value for Students and Our State, which found that graduates of Colorado institutions fair better economically than those without a postsecondary credential. A decade out, alumni take home a median income of $50,000, $54,000 and $60,000 for certificate, associate and bachelor’s degrees, respectively, with the highest earnings in certain science, technology, math and engineering fields.