CMC plan could open more doors for local grads | AspenTimes.com

CMC plan could open more doors for local grads

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Two local high school counselors agree that more students might further their education beyond high school – and certainly beyond two-year college degrees – if Colorado Mountain College is able to offer a variety of bachelor’s degree programs.

“It certainly creates a lot more options, and would be a great opportunity for our students to go to CMC all four years if they receive the bid,” Glenwood Springs High School guidance counselor Wade Lewis said.

The CMC Board of Trustees this week voted unanimously to seek state legislative approval to offer a limited number of four-year degrees in such areas as nursing, teaching, business, hospitality management and environmental studies. Local CMC campuses are located in Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

If the plan gains approval from Colorado lawmakers and accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the first baccalaureate classes could be offered as soon as fall of 2010, CMC President Dr. Stan Jensen said after the board’s decision Monday.

“Especially now, with the economy, a lot of young people are looking to stay in the community, live at home and maybe work part-time and still be able to complete a bachelor’s degree,” Lewis said. “This would be a great option for them.”

Out of this past year’s Glenwood graduating senior class, about 65 percent went on to a four-year school. Another 20 percent continued on in a two-year program, with the majority going to CMC locally, he said.

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The numbers are similar at New Castle/Silt’s Coal Ridge High School, said Coal Ridge counselor Beth Sass.

“It would definitely add to what we offer our students now,” Sass said of CMC’s plan to expand into four-year degree programs.

Not only graduating seniors, but some students still in high school may be able to get a head start on four-year degree programs through CMC before they even graduate high school, she said.

“A lot of students are ready to move on and take college-level classes,” Sass said. “This would be one more tool out there for students to take that next step. CMC is a great option because of its low cost.”

For high school graduates who do continue on to four-year schools now, the most popular colleges on the Western Slope are Mesa State in Grand Junction and Fort Lewis College in Durango.

However, many students are ready to get away from home and prefer the larger university setting, Sass said.

“Mesa State is the biggest draw for our kids, because of its proximity,” she said. “But our next biggest is Colorado State.”

CMC officials acknowledge that there could be some opposition from existing four-year institutions in the state to CMC’s bid.

“There’s no legitimate threat in terms of anyone else’s enrollment growth,” Jensen said during a telephone press conference Monday. “We believe this lines up directly with our mission, and we remain committed to our goal to help prepare students who aren’t quite ready for college.”

And, “We will continue to have a strong relationship with other four-year schools in the state, as we do today,” he said.

One of those colleges CMC has close ties with is Mesa State, one of three other community colleges in Colorado that have been awarded the right to offer four-year degrees. The others are Adams State College in Alamosa and Metropolitan State in Denver.

Mesa State was founded as a junior college, and part of its mission continues to be to provide two-year degrees and continuing education programs through its affiliate, Western Colorado Community College.

It was in the 1970s that Mesa State became a four-year institution, explained college spokesperson Dana Nunn.

“We wish CMC well in that endeavor, and look forward to continuing our successful partnerships with them as we have in the past,” Nunn said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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