Colorado Mountain College 4-year degree bill passes state Senate on Wednesday
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DENVER – Depsite initial opposition from the Department of Higher Education, a bill allowing Colorado Mountain College to offer four-year degrees passed in the state Senate Wednesday, 33-1
State Sen. Dan Gibbs (who introduced the bill) said it’s now heading to the state House of Representatives, perhaps as early as next week.
Colorado’s Department of Higher Education had its reservations about the bill due to its timing, but Gibbs said a compromise has been reached. The department was against the mountain college bill because it wants to give its strategic planning committee a chance to make its own goals and recommendations on the future of Colorado’s higher education.
“The bill was amended to limit the number of degrees CMC could offer,” said Department of Higher Education spokesman John Karakoulakis. “If the bill passes, they’d be limited to no more than five (four-year) degrees. This is a compromise because it’s limited in nature. We didn’t want to give CMC unlimited authority to create a new four-year state college. We believe that this will help CMC respond to the needs of the community by offering the degree programs, but still in a limited fashion.”
CMC’s new four-year degrees must also be approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Gibbs said. The school will still keep and maintain its community college status.
As of now, CMC only provides two-year associate’s degrees, and Gibbs said Colorado’s mountain region is underserved regarding higher education. CMC’s service spans a 12,000 square-mile radius with seven campuses spread throughout the region. The community college’s board of trustees already OK’d making four-year degrees a reality, but the measure must be passed by the state Legislature first.
“This is the one bright spot for higher education in the state,” Gibbs said, noting that giving CMC the opportunity to offer four-year degrees won’t cost the state additional money. CMC schools are funded locally, and four-year degree start-up costs will be absorbed by the institution.
According to CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford, the community college isn’t currently planning to increase its mill levy to fund the school locally.
“We’re anticipating to be able to cover additional expense through tuition,” Crawford said. She said she’s not sure what four-year degrees will cost yet as it depends on what specific degrees will be offered.
Crawford also said CMC is currently surveying its students and the host communities about what types of degrees they’d like to see offered. Preliminary survey results show high demand for degrees in resort-related business and teacher education.
Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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