Article by Andy Brown

Students who enrolled in college but dropped out before they could earn their degrees have a new opportunity to return, and the state of Colorado will help pay for it.

The “Finish What You Started” initiative is administered by the Department of Education’s Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI). Adams State received a $678,546 to help students in the San Luis Valley complete their postsecondary degrees.

“Data shows many students enroll and never start, or never finish their first semester. Another group of students start school but drop out after one or two years,” says Chayne Boutillette, director of COSI programs at Adams State. “They came to school and for some reason, whether it was related to family issues or money issues, or something else entirely, they could not stay.”

For example, Boutillette recalls a student who enrolled several years ago but immediately dropped out after a member of her household lost their job. That student felt she had no choice but to return to work to ensure the family had an income. If she were to return through this program, the state would provide funds to support her and students in similar situations.

“For someone like her, the money might go towards child care or to pay past bills related to schooling. The program would help with that kind of support, as well as traditional tuition, fees, and books,” says Boutillette. “The state gives a lot of leeway in how we support students who return. If they’re committed to coming back, we’re committed to supporting them.”

That support extends beyond financial help. The Finish What You Started program also ensures that returning students have a point of contact as they navigate their college experience. “I’m here to walk them through any barriers that come up, whether it’s financial, or they have trouble getting a transcript, or if they feel like they have to go back to work like that student. They bring those issues to me, and we come up with a plan, so it’s less likely they drop out,” says Boutillette. “It matters, because our data shows that having a support person on campus increases persistence and completion.”