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CU, CMC boosting ties to bolster student success

Heather McGregor
Managing Editor

Colorado Mountain College and the University of Colorado officials are teaming up on an effort to encourage more high students to go on to college.

The project was one of several discussed Monday and Tuesday during a visit to Glenwood Springs by a contingent of University of Colorado officials, including CU president Betsy Hoffman and CU Regent Gail Schwartz of Aspen.

“A college degree is worth a great deal. It more than doubles your income over your lifetime,” said Hoffman. “A people with college degrees report living more satisfying lives. With a degree, you have a lot more choices about what you do.”

The CU contingent met formally with CMC and Roaring Fork School District leaders, and noshed with CU alumni Monday evening at – where else? – the Buffalo Valley restaurant.

“This visit opened the door for stronger collaboration,” said Cynthia Heelan, president of Colorado Mountain College.

CU’s pre-collegiate program builds on work already being done by CMC to help high school students make a comfortable transition to the junior college.

Statewide, the University of Colorado has worked for 20 years with middle school and high school students who are the first in their families to go to college. Of the 4,000 students who completed the program, 96 percent went on to attend college, Hoffman said.

After-school, weekend and summer classes and campus visits give students and their parents a better sense of what it takes to succeed in college, she said.

The program starts in seventh grade, said Jack Burns, CU’s vice president for academic affairs and research.

“That’s when kids begin to lose interest in science and math, especially girls,” Burns said. The pre-collegiate program “keeps them in the pipeline, keeps them excited,” encouraging youngsters to pursue a degree in medicine, engineering or science.

Hoffman said 2,000 students are involved in the pre-collegiate program now, and she hopes to expand the program into the central mountains with the help of CMC.

“We already have strong pre-collegiate program with the high schools,” Heelan said. “Now we’ll look at this as an opportunity for middle school and high school students.”

It will include the added step for students to spend their first two years of college studying at CMC, then transfer to CU or another university.

“We have 60 to 70 students who go to CU each year after leaving CMC,” she said. “That’s a wonderful thing, and we’d like to expand that.”

She noted that CMC grads earn equal or higher average grades as CU juniors than CU students who started at the university as freshmen.

“Nine years ago I met with the presidents of CU and Colorado State. I showed them the data and said, “You should be standing at our door collecting our graduates with a funnel. They are your best juniors,'” Heelan said.

Those comments evolved into a successful program that allows CMC students to directly transfer all their credits to CU and other state universities.

This week, Heelan said, college and university leaders began talks on the idea of concurrent enrollment, building on the credit transfer arrangement.

Freshmen students who know their field of study could enroll in CMC and CU at the same time, and be informed of exactly which classes to take at the community college to be ready for higher-level classes at the university.

Such a program will probably take a year to develop, Heelan said, and the deans of academic affairs for CMC and CU started the project Tuesday.

CU is also reaching out to students across the state by offering 10 degree programs online. One of the most popular is the bachelor’s degree in nursing, said Robin Harvan, director of education for the CU Health Sciences Center in Denver.

Nursing students take their course work over the Internet and learn practical skills in a local hospital under the guidance of professional doctors and nurses.

That program ties in nicely with CMC’s nursing program, which offers an associate’s degree in nursing. Harvan said the state’s health care industry wants to increase the rate of nurses with bachelor’s degree from the current 40 percent to 60 percent.

The higher level of education is needed, she said, because nurses are involved in more complex decision-making.


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