DENVER, CO — The Making Higher Education Attainable Interim Study Committee today advanced three bills that would make it easier for Coloradans to access and pay for higher education.

“Recent research from the Colorado Department of Higher Education shows that earning a college or post-high school degree leads to longer life expectancy, better health and higher incomes, but the cost to attend these institutions has been rising quickly, while Colorado continues to rank near the bottom of state spending on higher education,” said Committee Vice-Chair Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango). “I’m excited that our committee advanced three critical bills that will make it easier for all Coloradans to access higher education and get the degree that’s right for them.”

“Colorado, and especially Fort Collins, has exceptional institutions of higher education, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult for students to pay for or attend our world-class colleges and universities,” said committee member Rep. Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins). “The bills we passed today will make higher education more attainable for Coloradans. I look forward to furthering our important work to support Colorado’s students pursuing a postsecondary degree or credential and to continuing the fight to reduce the cost of these degrees for our students.”

According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Colorado ranks 47th nationally for state appropriations on higher education. The report also showed that from 2008 to 2018, tuition at public two-year institutions in the state rose by 52 percent and tuition at four-year public institutions rose by 68 percent. Nearly half of all young adults in Colorado hold student loans, and student debt has been increasing faster than the national average according to a report from the Student Borrower Protection Center.

1. Modifications to Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative: The first bill would make modifications and improvements to the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI). Since 2014, COSI has provided a strong network of student support and scholarship programs to reduce the financial burden on eligible students and increase higher education program and certification completion rates. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to help students successfully integrate into the workforce. The bill makes a number of changes to the scholarship program that will increase the availability of wrap-around services to scholarship recipients and increase the participation of other postsecondary education providers to make the program more efficient and expand the pool of Coloradans it can serve.

Sponsors: Representative Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins) and Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada)

2. Providing College Credit for Work Experience: The second bill would require the Commission on Higher Education to adopt and implement a plan to award college credit to eligible Coloradans for previous work experience. The plan will prioritize the fastest growing industries as identified by the Department of Labor and Employment’s Talent Pipeline Report, and will ultimately require institutions of higher education, including area technical colleges, to accept and transfer academic credit for approved work-related experiences. This bill recognizes that many Coloradans acquire valuable experience before deciding to pursue a postsecondary degree or credential, and rewards them for that experience so that they are more likely to complete their degree and reenter the workforce.

Sponsors: Representative Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango) and Senators Tammy Story (D-Evergreen) and Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada)

3. Improving the Student Success Innovation Pilot Program: The third bill approved by the committee would create a pilot program within the Department of Higher Education to incentivize collaboration among institutions of higher education within Colorado to increase student completion rates and overall success. Under the bill, participating institutions would convene and study common barriers to student success and devise a program that addresses those barriers. The bill includes robust reporting requirements that outline student outcomes and cost, and other key indicators of success. This bill recognizes that many students pursuing a postsecondary degree face unique barriers and require innovative solutions to ensure their success.

Sponsors: Representative Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins) and Senator Tammy Story (D-Evergreen)