Colorado Sets a Higher Goal for Higher Education

By Megan McDermott

With the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) and Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) yesterday released a statewide plan focused on making education more accessible, affordable and equitable for all Coloradans.

Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development sets a statewide goal of 66 percent credential attainment by 2025, including certificates, two-year and four-year degrees. To reach this mark, CCHE has laid out four strategies for Colorado’s higher education institutions: increase credential completion, erase equity gaps, improve student success and invest in affordability and innovation.

You can download the plan here, as a PDF file.

With a rapidly changing economy, experts estimate the demand for college-educated adults in Colorado is the fifth highest in the nation. Research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce shows that by 2020 nearly 75 percent of jobs in Colorado will require some education beyond high school, yet only 55 percent of the adult population in Colorado has a degree or certificate.

“Our goal is clear and more important than ever. We must expand access to quality credentials to ensure that more Colorado residents have the skills, training and knowledge they need to succeed in the jobs of today and the future,” said Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of CDHE. “Critical to this work is our focus on erasing equity gaps, which is essential to expanding opportunity.”

The plan emphasizes closing equity gaps among minority and white groups as a key strategy to boost postsecondary attainment. The share of Colorado’s white majority population that has earned a credential is more than twice that of Hispanics and Latinos and about 1.5 times the share of African Americans. In fact, the gap between white and Hispanics is the second largest in the nation, barely behind California’s.

Lumina Foundation is finalizing a partnership with Colorado that will yield a significant commitment to closing the attainment gap for students of color. The Talent, Innovation and Equity (TIE) grant will provide up to $500,000 over two years to support the state’s efforts around increasing attainment among minority students. As a pacemaker for attainment and equity, Colorado is a critical player in reaching the Lumina Foundation goal of reducing inequitable outcomes.

“Colorado is a state that has proven its commitment to success for all students, and we’re proud to partner with them,” said Scott Jenkins, a strategy director at Lumina Foundation. “The objective of Lumina Foundation’s Talent Innovation Equity partnership with states like Colorado is to demonstrate that educational attainment gaps among students of color can be closed.”

Colorado Rises reaffirms goals set forth in the previous master plan released in 2012. Using institution data, CDHE is developing a dashboard to track progress on goals and metrics that will debut in the coming months.


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