Complete College Colorado: key to a better life

(11-30-2010)

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, President of Adams State College

Outgoing Governor Bill Ritter recently launched the "Complete College Colorado" Initiative to help Coloradans who have attended, but not completed college to reenroll and earn their degrees.

Our state and our nation both need to increase their college-educated populations. The United States has fallen from first in the world to 12th in the percentage of adults (ages 25-34) with a postsecondary degree. A recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that the U.S. is slowly emerging from the recession "only to find itself on a collision course with the future: not enough Americans are completing college." Additionally, the report states that by 2018, we will need 22 million new workers with college degrees. However, projections show that we will miss that number by at least 3 million, if current trends continue. Our population is aging, and the boomers - my generation - are retiring at a record pace. We need more college graduates, if we are to adequately replace those workers.

Moreover, the same report predicts that by 2018, some two-thirds of jobs in Colorado will require postsecondary education. Although Colorado is among the leaders in the U.S. with a high percentage of college-educated residents, that is because many Coloradans relocated to the state having earned a college degree elsewhere. Fewer and fewer native Coloradans are completing college. This has become known as "The Colorado Paradox." Making matters even worse, notes the Colorado Commission on Higher Education in its recently published Colorado Master Plan for Higher Education, "The Degree Dividend:" Colorado has the largest gap in the nation between those who completed a college degree-mostly wealthy and white - and those who have not - mostly poor individuals of color. It is the latter population that is projected to grow the most during the next 25 years.

Adams State College has traditionally served as a point of access for residents of Southern Colorado, especially the San Luis Valley. Although the rate of college educated education is higher in Alamosa County than in other SLV counties, Southern Colorado overall has half the percentage of college degrees of Northern Colorado. This north/south gap is also a gap in income, a gap in health care, and a gap in bandwidth availability.

Adams State reaches out in a variety of ways to provide post-secondary education to individuals in our service area. That helps ameliorate all of these north/south gaps. Completing any portion of post secondary education has been shown to incrementally improve personal income over a lifetime and to enhance gainful employment and health care benefits.

ASC's College at High School program delivers college level credits in several area school districts. For 40 years, ASC has operated a federally funded Upward Bound Program to increase college aspiration and preparation among poor and first generation high school students. Hundreds of San Luis Valley high school students have successfully graduated from high school and college and gone on to successful careers, thanks to Upward Bound. In addition, for many years, ASC has admitted any San Luis Valley high school graduate, even if they did not meet our four-year admission requirements. These students are placed into a two-year program, and once they successfully complete their math and English requirements, they may transfer into our four-year programs of study.

Our well-known Extended Studies Program delivers a variety of certificates, degrees, and programs of study both on-line and through traditional correspondence. It is not unusual for an ASC undergraduate student to be enrolled in on-campus, face-to-face courses, a correspondence course, and an on-line course during the same semester. This helps them to maximize their time and work and take care of their families while enrolled in college.

For well-prepared students, our School of Business recently announced two new programs: a three-year BS in business administration and a five-year BS/MBA (Masters in Business Administration) program. Both allow concentrated study and save students money by decreasing their time to degree.

Additionally, our on-line MBA program and our new HEAL (Higher Education Administration and Leadership) master's degree program, also offered by our ASC's School of Business, reach out to individuals not only in the San Luis Valley and Colorado, but throughout the U.S.

Adams State's Department of Counselor Education was the pioneer for distance education for the counseling profession and enrolls students in a Master's in Counselor Education throughout Colorado, the U.S. and even internationally.

Last year ASC participated in a program funded through the Lumina Foundation called "FINISH." The grant allowed us to reach out to former Colorado public college and university students. Forty of those individuals completed their college degrees last fall, and others have the goal in sight. Adams State can help you or someone you know who has not completed college and would like to finish their degree. Call Cathi Lucero-Connell at the ASC One-Stop, locally at 587-7306, or toll-free at 866-344-1687.