Pikes Peak college wants to drop ‘community’ from its name

Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs on Monday, March 3, 2020.

Updated 4/25/22 at 7:33 a.m.

The bill to change Pikes Peak's name was signed by Governor Jared Polis on April 22.

Our original stories continues below.

Leaders at Pikes Peak Community College say the term “community college” no longer encapsulates the nature of its curriculum. Going forward, the school wants to be known as Pikes Peak State College.

Community colleges are traditionally known as less expensive, two-year higher education institutions where undergraduate students can get an associates degree before advancing to a bachelors program. But these days, plenty of Colorado’s community colleges also offer four-year degrees, often in fields like nursing or other applied sciences. 

Pikes Peak currently offers three bachelor degrees. Warren Epstein, the executive director of communication at PPCC, said changing the name could help recruit potential students who don’t view community colleges as a viable path to a career. 

“I think that term and community college has lost some of its luster,” Epstein said. “It feels like ‘less than’ at some places.”

College administrators turned to their representatives in the Colorado legislature and asked them to draft a bill to approve the name change. Four lawmakers, including Rep. Marc Snyder and Minority Whip Paul Lundeen, have attached their names to the proposal. 

“I think really what this bill does is two things,” Snyder said. “It gives them recognition of the vital higher educational purpose that they serve. And two, it makes it a lot more attractive when they go out to recruit new students coming into the program.”

The bill has not yet passed the Senate or the House, but Snyder said he feels confident about the bipartisan and community support it has received. Both the college and legislators have gotten positive feedback from residents and businesses, including Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers and Colorado College.

Pikes Peak is the latest community college to request a name change via legislation. Last session, lawmakers passed a bill that removed “junior” from two colleges that still went by the name “junior college” — a term that has largely been retired. 

All 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System have received blessings from its chancellor, Joe Garcia, to pursue name changes if desired. But other than Pikes Peak, none have jumped at the chance. 

That may change depending on how a name change affects Pikes Peak. Epstein hopes the move will help enrollment balance out after a pandemic-driven hit they’ve been unable to recover from so far. 

“There is interest, at least curiosity, from a lot of [other community colleges] looking at how this name change is gonna affect us,” Epstein said. “I think they see if it bumps up our numbers and our image is looking really good, they may go to it too.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify who has endorsed the proposed name change.