Faced with unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, Colorado’s higher education institutions have embraced innovation, Gov. Jared Polis said in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday in an interview about the future of postsecondary education.
Polis appeared at the Hotel Colorado event as part of a panel discussion titled “Higher Education: Disrupted” to kick off the three-day National Dual Mission Summit hosted by Colorado Mountain College.
“There is a huge opportunity for innovation in education, and in many ways even the term ‘dual-mission’ is too limited,” says Polis. “It’s really multi-mission. People need skills to succeed in their jobs, whatever they look like, and how they can get them.
CMC, as an official mission institution under the statute, does that by offering a mix of certificate and associate degree programs, alongside a four-year bachelor’s degree, more opportunities for continuing education and for individual teams that members of the community can take. to expand their learning, said CMC President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser.
A large part of the college district’s mission is to meet local workforce needs throughout the multiple communities in the central Rocky Mountains that CMC serves, Hauser said.
“We’ve gone out on 11 campuses, across a large swath of Colorado to serve these hard-to-reach areas,” he said. Therefore, the dual mission is not a proposition for us, but it is an ‘and’.
“We’re not vocational or liberal arts, but we do both under one roof, which we do diligently.”
Polis and Hauser were joined in the discussion by Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, DC. Alison Griffin, senior vice president of Whiteboard Counsel, moderated.
Mitchell applauds Polis for helping to make today’s kindergarten a reality in Colorado.
“That really changed the way the students were going forward,” he said.
Dual mission colleges are a great way to pave the way for postsecondary education, Mitchell said. But he said he was saddened that some opportunities to make progress appear to have been missed in the post-secondary approach.
“Yes, I’m really worried that we’re going to see signs that we’ve lost as a country the incredible gains we’ve made over the last 25 years in increasing enrollment of low-income, first-generation students in higher education, across the spectrum,” he said. “This is a generational problem, and we must take bold steps to change it.”
Mitchell noted that ACE has been instrumental in creating programs such as the GED (General Education) test for students who have not graduated high school to obtain equivalency, as well as paying GI Bill soldiers to further their educations.
“We are now in another moment where we ask ourselves how to believe in learning what people do and where they do it, and provide them with a wide range of possibilities and opportunities,” he said.
Much of the discussion at the summit, which continues on the 5th and 6th at CMC-Spring Valley, centers around the somewhat outdated Carnegie Classification System for institutions of higher learning.
Although the board’s description for 38 colleges and universities has different classes, there isn’t one that really fits the definition of a dual-mission school, Mitchell said. There is also not much flexibility for schools to move between classifications and still fulfill their missions, he said.
In Colorado, Polis said the state has made some policy changes to allow college institutions to innovate, clearing the way for schools like CMC to offer four-year degrees.
“We were able to create something in Colorado where friction has been reduced enough that, if people want to innovate to better meet the needs of their local workforce and students, the state can work with them to get there,” Polis said. .
That also means expanding concurrent enrollment and dual credit courses in high school to get students a head start on their postsecondary education, he said.
“Over 40% of our graduating seniors have now enrolled in at least one concurrent course,” Polis said. “We want to make it even more universal.”
A portion of the funds that went to the Colorado American Rescue Plan Act also went toward increasing educational opportunities. It included a nearly $3 million grant for CMC to work with Northwestern Community College in Rangely to provide the technology needed to deliver college courses to rural high schools, Hauser noted.
But he said more work needs to be done at the federal level.
It ranges from the federal aid system to “retreat” terms like two-year and four-year schools, and even the semester system, Hauser said.
“We need to be years, and not be held these fall and spring semesters,” he said, noting that CMC in the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, its summer courses without any tuition. .
“Summer is a great time for us as students enroll and are busy and traveling,” he said, announcing that CMC is now exploring the possibility of eight and eight terms.
“It’s something that can make us more agile and better able to adapt to the economic ups and downs of our region,” Hauser said.