Higher education commission wants more Coloradans educated in STEM

55 percent of adults have a degree or certificate

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education announced on Tuesday its master plan, “Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development,” as a call to action to increase education levels among state residents.

Fifty-five percent of the state’s adult population has a degree or certificate, and 49 percent has an associate’s or higher degree.

When broken down by race, only 29 percent of Hispanics and Native Americans, and 39 percent of African Americans have a certificate or degree.

A study conducted by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that by 2020, nearly three-fourths of the jobs in Colorado will require some form of education beyond a high school diploma.

In order to meet the demands of a changing workforce, the commission aims to have 66 percent of adults earn a certificate or degree by 2025.

The commission identified four strategic goals as part of its master plan: increasing credential completion, erasing equity gaps, improving student success and investing in affordability and innovation.

Public colleges and universities in Colorado produced approximately 48,850 certificates and degrees in the last academic year. The goal is to produce an additional 73,500 certificates and degrees by 2025.

The commission found that Colorado has a higher demand for educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math than the national average. To meet the needs of employers, the commission said more adults need credentials in STEM fields.

Similarly, Colorado has a growing shortage of educators, and the commission acknowledged the importance of also producing more teaching credentials.

Despite Colorado’s changing demographics, many students are not being served well, if at all. There are not only racial attainment gaps across the state, but also attainment gaps for students from low-income families.

In order to erase these equity gaps, the commission aims to increase the attainment of Hispanic, African American and Native American students to 66 percent, equal to their white peers.

Through student-support programs such as first-year intensive coaching, peer advising and community-focused engagement of students, the commission aims to close the gap.

The third strategic goal focuses on students’ timely completion of higher education.

Studies show that the longer a student takes to complete the required credit hours, the less likely he or she will graduate.

Additionally, statistics show more than one-third of students transfer at least once during their postsecondary education, and transferring can result in loss of credits.

The commission found that one way student retention rates can be improved is through increasing the number of students successfully completing introductory gtPathways courses. These are courses that are guaranteed to transfer and apply to the general education core curriculum at any public institution.

The final strategic goal is making higher education more affordable.

In recent years, increasing costs of higher education have been financed through rising tuition.

Consequently, more than 60 percent of students attending a public institution graduate with debt.

The commission has concluded that students and their families are paying their limit, and taking advantage of credit-earning programs during high school can shorten time-to-degree and lessen costs.

An increase in funding for need-based student aid can also help shoulder some of the financial burden students face.

Through the master plan, the commission said it is committed to years of work to make higher education more accessible to students, regardless of their ethnic or economic background.

mrupani@durangoherald.com

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