By Heather Fitzmorris
Integrated University Communications
About 600,000 people in Colorado have college credits—but no college degree. That's significant because 67 percent of all jobs require higher education or certification. So, many of these individuals are unable to advance in their work. Experts agree, if Colorado is to remain competitive as a diverse population known for its entrepreneurial and educated citizens, something must be done to support those looking to complete college degrees.
The Colorado Department of Education and Gov. Bill Ritter officially launched the Complete College Colorado campaign Nov. 8, in the Science Building on the Auraria Campus. Ritter stressed that in the coming years, college education will continue to be a driving force in Colorado.
Despite leaving office in the next few months, Ritter was passionate about why he supports the campaign, saying, “There is no time to waste.”
This initiative will work to give all Coloradans access to an affordable, quality education. “I believe that education is the single most important key to success for our children and for our state. This is what we want for our children, and we must continue to educate our children so that they are able to meet their potential” Ritter says.
Rico Munn, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, emphasizes, “The college completion campaign will show where we want the state to go with higher education. There is an increased value in having a degree, and the state will eventually realize this and see the return on investment."
Bill Garcia, lieutenant governor elect, notes, “Enrollment is up, but are students finding success? Are they leaving with a degree, or are they getting lost in the transition? This is a great access point, as it will provide education to the diverse population that makes up Colorado.”
Garcia’s family was strongly steeped in education. Many families are not as fortunate. “I had the opportunity to get a degree. And in some ways, that is the only difference between me and many of those in poverty. This education initiative has the potential of making an impact on the community.”
Angell Perez is graduating from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She’d put off college after a summer job turned into a permanent position. Five years later, Perez found she was unable to advance and grow any further in her position. She needed a degree. Perez went back to school and completed her degree from Metro.
“So many doors have opened with my degree. Being a first generation graduate, I feel I can provide an example, especially for women and women of color” Perez explains. “This initiative to finish degrees will make it possible for people to go out into the community and be able to give back” Perez adds.
The Department of Education has realized how important it is to equip those with outstanding college credits with the tools they will need to be complete a higher education degree. The programs that comprise Complete College Colorado are broken down into four different areas. The workforce and economy plans are specific to helping individuals plan for and progress their careers. P-20 is designed to focus on encouraging students to make the full transition from elementary school to the completion of higher education through tailored education programs. Affordability and access programs concentrate on equipping students with financial aid options. Finally, the state is implementing completion programs to support individuals seeking to return to school to complete degrees.
Photos: Top, Gov. Bill Ritter chats with Rico Munn, Department of Education, at right, and others before the campaign kick off. Lower, UC Denver Chancellor Jerry Wartgow listens as the campaign in explained.