November 12, 2010
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Governor’s initiative aims to increase college completion in Colorado
Gov. Bill Ritter (l) and Metro State President Stephen Jordan (r) present Metro State student Angell Perez with a cap and degree cover at a Nov. 8 Complete College in Colorado press conference.
Sixteen years after starting classes at Metropolitan State College of Denver, Angell Perez, a 38-year-old mother of four, will walk away this fall with a bachelor’s degree and is now eyeing a Ph.D., thanks to the College’s Adult Re-entry Student Program.
Funded by a Colorado Department of Higher Education grant, the Adult Re-entry Student Program is run through the College’s Individualized Degree Program, and aims to help students return to college to complete their degrees.
Like many who stop out or drop out of college, Perez says her attention had turned to her family and jobs. But, she “hit a wall” when she realized she could go no further in her career. “There was no more room for growth (without a degree),” she says. A postcard from Metro State about the re-entry program brought her back to campus to complete the two classes she needed to earn her degree, which focuses on multiculturalism and social justice. She is slated to begin a graduate program in ethnic studies at CSU next year.
Achievements like Perez’s are goals of “Complete College in Colorado,” a 30-day initiative launched by Gov. Bill Ritter on Nov. 8 at a press conference on campus to stimulate degree completion in Colorado.
Held at the Auraria Science Building, the press conference featured a host of higher education, government and business leaders, including Metro State President Stephen Jordan, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education Rico Munn, Lt. Gov.-elect Joe Garcia and Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Also in attendance was CSU System Chancellor Joe Blake.
The intent of the initiative is to enhance awareness of programs and services available across the state to help individuals reach their goal of completing higher education degrees or certificates. The initiative reinforces a finding of the governor-appointed Higher Education Strategic Planning (HESP) Committee in its plan released Nov. 4: that increasing degree completion in Colorado is an economic necessity.
“More than 600,000 (people) in Colorado have credits, but no degrees,” said Ritter. “Today we are demonstrating there’s no time to waste.”
Garcia concurred, saying the number represents an “enormous amount of untapped potential." He also pointed to the importance of education in helping students reach their full potential in the workforce. “Transitions are important. We lose people at each of those points (i.e., middle school to high school, high school to college). It’s not good enough to get a high school diploma, if you are not ready to start with college-level classes," said Garcia, who was proud to say his mother earned her bachelor’s at 63. “It’s never too late.”
Referencing the Colorado Paradox, in which the state boasts among the highest percentage of college graduates but actually imports many of those from out of state, Ritter said, “We must educate our own.”
He also appealed to those who wonder if a college degree will be of value in a down economy. “Over your lifetime it’s better to have a degree than not to have one," he said.
Munn reported, “The importance of a higher education degree cannot be overstated. According to recent figures published by the Higher Education Strategic Planning Committee, having an associate’s degree increases the wages of a high school graduate by 36 percent over a lifetime, while obtaining a bachelor’s degree almost doubles the income of a high school graduate.”
Addressing the positive climate of Colorado's workforce, Brough echoed the importance of a college degree, saying it’s easier to “get another job if you lose one” and the workforce “creates some confidence in entrepreneurship.”
To learn more about the focus areas of the 30-day initiative and its sponsors, go to Complete College in Colorado.