CMC gets final OK to offer four-year degrees |

CMC gets final OK to offer four-year degrees

Kathryn Corazzelli
Summit Daily News
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – After 18 months of discussions, studies and preliminary approvals, Colorado Mountain College received the final OK Monday from the Higher Learning Commission in its quest to offer two new bachelor’s degrees beginning this fall.

The college, headquartered in Glenwood Springs, will begin taking applications right away for a bachelor of science in business administration and a bachelor of arts in sustainability studies.

In a conference call with media Tuesday, CMC president Dr. Stan Jensen said the news is extremely exciting, and the culmination of a lot of work. He thanked the communities and college board for being so supportive.

“We look forward to serving our communities even better through these bachelor’s degrees,” Jensen said. “It’s a historic time – like winning the Triple Crown.”

The idea to offer four-year degrees started about a year-and-a-half ago. Administrators at the college started talking to the community to gauge interest, and then called on the college board to vote on the idea. The board decided to pursue them in November of last year, and went on to gain approval from the Colorado Legislature and former Gov. Bill Ritter. Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who was state senator at the time the measure was going through the legislature, sponsored the bill.

“I’m just so excited. It seems like yesterday that I introduced Senate Bill 101,” Gibbs said. “When you look at the geographic area that Colorado Mountain College covers, it’s about the same size as the state of Maryland. The fact we didn’t have real higher education opportunities where students could receive a bachelor’s degree within that area, that was always very troubling to me. I think this will be a first step in growing the programs and seeing how CMC can provide a unique niche to provide bachelor’s degrees for students.”

Approval from the learning commission was the final step in offering the degrees.

“CMC will be a dual-purpose college,” Jensen said. “We will continue to be a comprehensive community college, and our other purpose is to be a college that offers excellent four-year degrees.”

The two areas of study were chosen through student and community surveys. Business administration was the highest area of interest; sustainability studies ranked fourth. The two studies that came in at two and three – teacher certification for K-12, and a bachelor’s in nursing – involve longer processes of approval before they can be offered. Jensen said the college is currently working on accreditation for the two degrees, and hope to have approval “in a couple of years.” He said his best guess is fall of 2013 for teacher preparation, and fall of 2013 or ’14 for the bachelor’s in nursing.

The college currently has legislative authority to add five baccalaureate degrees to its roster. CMC public information officer Debra Crawford said administrators don’t know yet what the fifth area of concentration would be, and studies are being done to determine need. She said officials are also researching whether a degree or certificate in teaching should be pursued; because a certificate is not a bachelor’s, it would not count towards one of the five baccalaureates.

CMC student Michaela Miller – a Summit High School grad in her first semester at the Breckenridge campus – said she is very happy to hear about the new degrees. She plans to apply for a bachelor’s in sustainability studies.

“I’m excited because it’s convenient,” she said. “I’m excited to stay in Summit County for a while.”

Miller said if bachelor’s degrees weren’t available locally, she would probably look into attending the University of Colorado.

In previous surveys, Jensen said about 700 people showed interest in signing up for the business degree, and about 400 said they would register for the sustainability degree. But, he said those number aren’t reliable.

“We think those are probably the high end,” he said.

Jensen said the college initially plans to hire two full-time business professors, one full-time for sustainability, and some adjunct faculty. He said existing faculty will also be able to teach the bachelor’s level classes, and any new professors could teach lower-level classes.

CMC has 11 campus locations, three of which – Spring Valley near Glenwood, Steamboat, and Leadville – have residential facilities for students. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the college also has facilities in Aspen and Carbondale. Jensen said administrators are currently conducting studies – through an outside firm – examining the possibility of adding dorms at the Breckenridge, Edwards and Rifle locations. Crawford said she didn’t know when residential studies would be done, or when any decisions would be made.

Jensen said CMC campuses currently have students from about 46 states, and the possibility of added dorms would help to make the school “more of a destination college.”

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