Colorado Mountain College summer enrollment up 66% with rollout of free tuition for many students |

Colorado Mountain College summer enrollment up 66% with rollout of free tuition for many students

Colorado Mountain College's Spring Valley campus welcome center near Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Colorado Mountain College has seen a significant jump in summer enrollment across the college district, as online classes are being offered free to several categories of students in the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the latest data reported last week, CMC was reporting that full-time student equivalency (FTE) this summer is up 66% compared to the same time last year. FTE is a measure that looks at a combination of actual students and the number of credits taken.

“Because of increased student demand, we added 80 new individual classes,” CMC Public Information Officer Debra Crawford said.

On average, she said, students who have enrolled this summer in GED (high school equivalency), English as a Second Language (ESL) or credit classes have registered for more credits than they did last summer.

The CMC Board of Trustees in early April decided to waive tuition for certain categories of students taking credit courses, as well as ESL and GED courses.

The tuition waiver applies to students who qualify as new or returning in-district students, as well as in-state students who took credit courses this spring, and any displaced workers who live in the CMC district.

The decision was made in response to the economic crisis that has transpired during the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado due to the related business shutdowns and substantial job losses.

CMC has also since decided to offer its summer courses via online distance learning, rather than in person, due to the public health restrictions that remain in place.

Crawford said that, of the students who have enrolled for summer courses so far, 16% are new to CMC, and 37% identified as Latino or Hispanic, or as belonging to a minority.

The largest groups of summer students, by age, are 25 to 34 years old (38%), 19 to 24 years (32%) and 35 to 54 years (21%).

When colleges and K-12 schools in Colorado were forced to close in March as a result of the pandemic, CMC immediately went to work to transfer more than 1,000 courses from in-person to an online environment, Matt Gianneschi, chief operating officer for the college district, said during a Wednesday Board of Trustees tele-conference meeting.

CMC has not made a formal decision as to how the fall semester will look come late August, he said. But several options are on the table for consideration in the coming weeks as the state’s new public health orders take shape.

Fall classes could be conducted similar to the way they normally do, or they could be done completely online again or in some hybrid format involving a mix of in-classroom and online instruction, Kathryn Regjo, vice president for academic affairs for CMC, said at the Wednesday meeting.

“The sooner we can know what the state is allowing, the more time we have to be prepared and able to conduct classes in a high quality way,” she said.

Some classes and programs where remote instruction is not possible would have to have specific health safety plans in place in order to have live classroom meeting, Regjo also said. “We will take a look at every single fall course and begin developing those safety plans and protocols.”

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