DENVER, Colorado - A rescheduled committee hearing today may determine the fate of a bill before the Colorado Legislature that would allow Colorado Mountain College to offer some four-year degree programs.
SB101, sponsored by Sens. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, and Dan Gibbs, 5D-Boulder, was to have been heard earlier this month by the Senate Education Committee, but the hearing was postponed.
Gibbs is slated to present the bill in committee following today's regular agenda. Several witnesses will also be testifying on behalf of the college, CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford said.
It was unclear whether the committee plans to vote on the proposal, which has met with some resistance from state higher education officials. If it passes out of committee, the bill would go to the full Senate.
The bill proposes that CMC be allowed to offer a limited number of four-year degrees in addition to the two-year associate degree and business training programs offered at its seven campus locations throughout central and western Colorado, including Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Carbondale and Aspen.
Specific four-year degree programs have not been identified, but would most likely be limited to programs such as nursing, teaching, business, resort management and environmental studies, according to CMC officials.
In late January, the Colorado Department of Higher Education informed CMC that it would prefer the college postpone its request until a new statewide higher education strategic plan is developed.
A steering committee is currently working on a set of recommendations to give to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, assessing the state's higher education system and laying out a roadmap to guide Colorado's 27 public colleges and universities. One of the goals is to determine the proper role and mission of the various institutions.
Although the CDHE is not opposed to the concept of CMC being allowed to offer four-year degrees, department spokesman John Karakoulakis said it would prefer that the college wait until after the strategic plan is developed to proceed with the request.
The Commission on Higher Education, itself, has not taken a position on the CMC bill.
Colorado State University has also not taken a formal position on the bill. However, any change in role and mission "is a very good candidate to be addressed in the strategic plan by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Higher Education," Michele McKinney, public relations director for CSU, said Tuesday.
Last November, the CMC board of trustees voted unanimously to request that the legislation be introduced this session.
Although CMC receives some funding from the state, it is not part of the state community college system and is funded mostly by local property taxes.