Polis Unveils Plan To Make College More Affordable For Coloradans

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Colorado State University administration building in Fort Collins.

Rebecca Turner enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 2012. But she couldn’t stay because she couldn’t afford it.

She’s not alone.

To help people like Turner, Gov. Jared Polis announced a three-phase plan to make college more affordable for Coloradans. He laid out his strategy on Tuesday at the Community College of Denver.

First, he wants to reduce the time to get a degree, lower textbook costs, and create a website to help families and students make better financial decisions.

To help cut down on how long it takes to get a degree, Polis wants to expand concurrent enrollment and promote one- and three- year programs.

Then, the plan asks colleges to address whether they duplicate services and to demonstrate cost savings. It also would also restructure degree programs to include more work-based credit. 

The third phase relies on building relationships with specific industries so colleges can better educate students to enter the workforce after graduating.

“If you ask most Coloradans what the issue is, it’s cost and affordability,” Polis said. “And so we really need to prove that we can generate real results for Colorado families and save them money on degrees and certifications that matter.”

Turner said some of her friends pursued the more affordable option of going to community college. But even then, she said it’s not easy.

“They’re still forced into financially insecure situations that demanded them to maintain one, sometimes two part-time or full-time jobs in order to make ends meet,” Turner said.

State officials said about 75 percent of all Colorado jobs require some kind of post-secondary credential or a degree. That number jumps to 97 percent of “top” jobs — those that pay a living wage and have high growth rates.

And 43 percent of Colorado’s adult population don’t have an education past high school. The Colorado Department of Higher Education wants to get 66 percent of the adult population to have a post-secondary education by 2025.

Polis appointed commissioners Sarah Kendall Hughes and Charlotte Olena in July to lead a cost containment subcommittee under the Colorado Commission of Higher Education.

Some schools have already started making affordability moves on their own. Fort Lewis College launched the FLC Tuition Promise that makes students eligible for free tuition if they are a Colorado resident and their family income is $60,000 a year or less.