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Community Colleges Aim to Close Racial-Equity Gap in Post-Secondary Degrees

State officials estimate that 97% of top jobs in Colorado that pay a living wage require a post-secondary certificate or degree. (Pixabay)
State officials estimate that 97% of top jobs in Colorado that pay a living wage require a post-secondary certificate or degree. (Pixabay)
June 18, 2020

DENVER -- Colorado's community colleges have launched a new program designed to help more students complete a bachelor's degree, and reduce a significant racial equity gap in Colorado's education system.

Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, says 75% of all jobs in the state require some kind of post-secondary credential or degree, but just 58% of Colorado adults have completed education beyond high school.

Paccione says students of color are at greater risk of being left behind.

"But for African-Americans it's about 40% who have a credential," she states. "For Hispanic or Latinx adults, again age 25 to 34, the number is about 30%."

First-time students who participate in the program will get joint counseling with both two-year and four-year schools to ensure that classes completed apply toward a four-year degree at public universities in the state.

Paccione says lower tuition costs at community colleges also should reduce student loan debt. Students also are guaranteed admission to a four-year school after they complete their associate degree.

Paccione says the Bridge to Bachelor's Degree Program will help the state meet ambitious goals set by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to reduce the costs of college and see more Coloradans graduate with four-year degrees.

Paccione encourages recent high school graduates to complete any post-secondary credential in order to stay competitive in a changing workforce.

"Pick the path that's right for you," she urges. "Whether it's a one-year trade program where you can get a certificate and get right into the workforce, two-year associate degree, four-year bachelor's degree. Pick your path, but complete your path."

Under the program, partner universities also will collaborate with community colleges by streamlining the transfer process, and engaging with students early and often to support their transition to the university.

Paccione notes that some 600,000 Coloradans have some college education, but have not completed a degree.


Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO