ASPEN - A four-year college degree could soon be as close as the Aspen campus of Colorado Mountain College, after this week's legislative approval of a measure that will allow CMC to offer as many as five baccalaureate degrees. The proposal is now headed to the governor's desk.It may be that students in an Aspen classroom participate in a course via the college's interactive video system, used to link students and teachers who may be many miles apart, but the potential exists for all of the campuses in the CMC system to both host classes and offer a connection to a course taught elsewhere, said Lin Stickler, executive vice president of CMC.The college has seven campuses across north-central Colorado, including facilities in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, offering two-year associate degrees. Surveys in the communities CMC serves indicate the strongest desire for degree programs is in business, education/teaching and health care. Business and education will probably be the first to be launched, Stickler said.The goal is to have baccalaureate degree programs in place by the fall of 2011, though there is much to do first, including seek accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the approval of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The college doesn't anticipate the need to greatly increase its staff levels, Stickler said.Across its district, the college has a potential base of 30,000 students who might seek a four-year degree from CMC, according to Stickler. They include CMC students who would otherwise go on to complete a four-year degree elsewhere and individuals who have already earned college credits and would like to return to school to complete a degree.Many of the courses will likely be geared to working adults who need to attend class in the evening and on weekends."We'll flex and build as needed if we see a lot of high school graduates coming in," Stickler said.The four-year program will be a boon to some Aspen High School graduates who are financially unable to go away to college or, in some cases, are contributing wage earners for their families and can't leave, according to Dr. Kathy Klug, college counselor at the school.Among Aspen graduates, 99.6 percent go on to college, but up to 13 percent of them in the past six years have opted for a two-year program, often at CMC, she said."I'm as excited as I can be about this," Klug said. "It's a great option for our valley."Klug's son, Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug, has already earned 50 to 60 college credits at CMC, fitting classes around his snowboarding career. He called her to express his excitement when the four-year program for CMC won the legislative go-ahead, she said.CMC currently charges $49 per college credit; a 60-credit associate degree costs about $3,000. A four-year degree would cost about $6,000 - less than one year of undergraduate tuition at the University of Colorado, Boulder for an in-state resident, Klug noted.CMC president Stan Jensen has said he doesn't anticipate much change to the college's tuition rates."It will still be the most reasonable in Colorado," Stickler said.
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