Colorado Mountain College wants to offer bachelor’s degrees
November 10, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College’s board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to seek state legislative approval to offer a limited number of four-year, baccalaureate degrees.
“This would allow the residents living in our 12,000-square-mile service area to have access to an affordable alternative in higher education, without having to leave home,” CMC President Stan Jensen said in a prepared statement.
Currently, CMC offers liberal arts and science certificates, associate degree programs and customized business training at its seven campus locations throughout central and western Colorado, including Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Rifle.
The college will seek sponsors to introduce a bill when the Colorado Legislature convenes in January that would allow CMC to offer selected bachelor’s degrees under the college’s existing name and governance structure.
If the legislature approves the plan, the college would conduct community surveys to help determine which specific degrees will serve the greatest unmet needs of local communities.
Based on previous research, however, Jensen said bachelor’s degrees could include teacher education, nursing, health services administration, business, hospitality management, resort management and environmental studies.
While CMC would continue to serve the traditional community college student, the move toward offering limited bachelor’s degree programs has been in the discussion stages for the past few months.
“We see this as another way to do our part to meet the governor’s goal of growing the number of college graduates in Colorado,” Jensen said during a telephone press conference following Monday’s regular monthly CMC board meeting in Glenwood Springs.
“This is part of our responsiveness to meeting the needs of our communities, and creating a better future for our students,” he said. “It will also help contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of our communities.”
College officials said they do not believe the plan will take students away from four-year colleges in the state.
Rather, it will give students who otherwise may not continue on to pursue four-year degrees an option to do so, said Lin Stickler, executive vice president of operations and innovative strategies for CMC.
“The driver behind it goes back to our core mission of providing access,” she said. “Oftentimes, students don’t have the means or the time to pursue a four-year degree, and they simply don’t go on at all.”
She noted that CMC’s 37 percent transfer rate is below the national norm. Part of that has to do with access, Stickler said.
And, there are no four-year colleges with a physical presence in the CMC district providing bachelor’s degree programs, she said.
CMC already offers hybrid access to selected bachelor’s degrees, using a combination of in-person classes and distance learning. That will not change, and in fact may expand, Jensen said.
“We want to continue those partnerships with other colleges,” he said. “But distance learning doesn’t work for everyone.”
And, “not everyone can leave home to go to college,” he added.
Jensen compared the size of the CMC district to the state of Maryland, where he noted there are 20 different colleges offering bachelor’s degree programs.
“We would like to fill that need for the students in our district,” he said. “Rather than competing with other colleges and reducing their slice of the pie, we want to create a larger pie.”
Already this year, CMC has expanded degree and certificate offerings, including two online degrees – associate of arts and associate of general studies – and solar energy certificates in basic solar photovoltaic, solar thermal installation and photovoltaic installation.