Guest column: Colorado Mountain College guided by Mountain Futures

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser
Guest Commentary
Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at or @CarrieBHauser. 
CMC/Courtesy photo

Hours before many of us were preparing for a long weekend to celebrate our nation’s birthday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on race-based preferences in college admissions. The court’s majority found that the explicit use of racial preferences in admission decisions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina — both highly-selective universities — violated the equal protection clause found in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Though the result surprised few following the court’s recent history, the decision nevertheless represented a jolt to higher education. 

 Immediately following the SCOTUS opinion, leaders at Colorado Mountain College pored through the 261-page document and confirmed that it meant little to CMC in practical terms. 

That’s because CMC, established in 1965, has always been an open-access institution that invites everyone into its campuses and classrooms, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or station in life. CMC exists to enable opportunities for all — not to sort or select students out.  

Even so, within hours of the high court’s announcement, the team at CMC engaged in a college-wide audit of all programs and services to ensure their compliance with the nation’s new law. (The audit revealed no violations; all programs and services were already comfortably in compliance.) 

Whether the SCOTUS opinion changes behaviors or programming on college campuses, it nonetheless reflects a turning point in our country and, most directly, American higher education. It also coincides with souring opinions about U.S. colleges and universities and the value of a college degree. According to pollsters at Gallup, support for postsecondary education hit all-time lows in 2023. The confluence of the high court’s opinion and the court of public opinion caused many institutions to shudder. Not so for Colorado Mountain College. 

CMC is as strong, relevant, and confident in its future as it has ever been. 

Weeks before the SCOTUS decision, the college launched a new seven-year strategic plan entitled Mountain Futures. Unlike many such documents, which are almost exclusively — and perhaps unrealistically — aspirational, ours is grounded in time-tested principles that ensure CMC’s relevance to dozens of high mountain rural resort communities on Colorado’s Western Slope. Thanks to CMC’s bold and visionary board of trustees and the input of thousands of community members, students, alumni, and employees, this updated and bold playbook doubles-down on what makes CMC vital to its region, the state — and to its students.  

Importantly, Mountain Futures is not a simple list of tasks, but rather a set of priorities that ensures CMC always remains the unique and essential entity that it is. In this way, the plan serves as a compass to guide the college with sincere and intentional commitments to equity, care, innovation and integrity.  

In contrast to opinions gathered by Gallup, CMC has enjoyed tremendous support from its local mountain communities for 60 years, providing high returns on investments to taxpayers, employers, and learners of all ages and aspirations. The Mountain Futures plan capitalizes on these successes and ensures that CMC will continue to serve our communities, just as we have for decades.  

Although the past and present always guide our intentions, the entire team at CMC has its sights on the future. This forward-looking focus is also evidenced by the college’s new advertising tagline, “Elevate Your Future,” which was selected by community members, by the college’s employees and by CMC students who demonstrate their grit, determination, and talents every single day. We are here for them, and also for you. 

Nationally, though higher education may be undergoing enormous disruption, the core of Colorado Mountain College, as evidenced in our new strategic plan, will continue to value kindness, openness, creativity, and responsible stewardship.  

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at or @CarrieBHauser.