1st-Time Community College Students Offered A Guaranteed In At Many Colorado Universities

June 2, 2020
Denver’s Auraria Campus Closed and EmptyDenver’s Auraria Campus Closed and EmptyHart Van Denburg/CPR News
With buildings closed and classes moving online during the coronavirus outbreak, Denver’s Auraria Campus — comprising CU Denver, Metropolitan State, and Community College of Denver — is almost empty. May 20, 2020.

This fall, first-time college students in Colorado will have a cheaper way to get a four-year degree. The new Bridge to Bachelor’s Degree Program allows those students at Colorado’s 13 community colleges to be conditionally admitted to a participating four-year college once they complete their two-year degree.

“In Colorado, our graduation rates are not what they should be,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System. 

About 80 percent of students who start at a community college say they want to go on and get a four-year degree, he said. Only about 20 percent actually do. That’s about 19,000 CCCS students transferring to a four-year college or university each year. Some get frustrated when they find out some of their credits won’t transfer. Thousands more drop out to enter the workforce.

Colorado has instituted programs that make transferring credits easier, but Garcia said the state hasn’t done enough to make sure students stay to both finish their associate’s degree and move on to a university if they wish.

Students who sign up for the Bridge to Bachelor’s program will work with both two-year and four-year college academic counselors from the start.

“They will stay on track and not take a lot of courses that don’t transfer for academic credit to four-year institutions,” he says. “I think that's the kind of extra incentive, the extra impetus so many of them need.”

The program comes at a critical time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment at colleges is down with thousands of students on the fence about committing to costly degrees. High school counselors report that many students say they want to stay closer to their homes until there is more clarity about the novel coronavirus.

“Now may be the time when the smart, strategic choice for many students is to stay closer to home,” Garcia said.

In a statement, Gov. Polis said the new model will substantially lower the cost to complete a bachelor’s degree, and help guarantee students’ chances of achieving upward social mobility.

Economic data show the state also needs people with certificates, trade credentials and associate degrees. But research from the Great Recession shows people who weathered it best were people with bachelor’s degrees and beyond.

The larger institutions that have guaranteed admission include The University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Johnson and Wales University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Regis University, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Western Colorado University in Gunnison.

Garcia said CCCS is working on finalizing agreements with many more four-year universities.