CMC leadership meets with local public
Two of Colorado Mountain College’s top officials stopped through Garfield County yesterday to discuss issues both broad and local at CMC’s Spring Valley and Rifle campuses.
CMC president Carrie Hauser and chief operations officer Matt Gianneschi have been “taking the college to the road” with town hall style meetings at campuses throughout the district.
In her opening presentation, Hauser had a lot to celebrate: more than 500,000 students served since 1967, four year degrees in business administration, sustainability studies, with nursing with teacher education and applied science pending accreditation, and an unmatched per credit price point. These points of pride largely owe their existence to unusually high local tax support, which accounts for 71 percent of CMC’s budget. While far from overflowing the coffers, that backbone of support has allowed the school to weather more than a decade of cuts that took Colorado from 15th in higher education funding to 49th.
Hauser believes Colorado Mountain College is well place to tackle some of the fundamental educational issues facing the state in years to come.
Foremost is the concern that the workforce will not be able to meet the demands of the emerging job market. The percentage of jobs that require a certificate or degree continues to climb.
“The context of our jobs has changed considerably,” said Gianneschi, who said he suspects that many of the positions that were lost in the recession have been replaced, but with steeper requirements.
Meanwhile, only 52 percent of high school freshmen will go on to enroll in college, and only 24 percent will complete a degree. To meet the demand, those figures would need to double.
One untapped resource in Garfield County is the Latino population. Colorado has the third widest gap between white and minority degree attainment. So, despite the low price point, improving access is a core tenant of the school’s “Reaching New Heights” strategic plan.
“We are open to anyone who comes through our door, and I hope more come through our door,” Hauser said.
Hauser is working to trim some fees that may prevent students from applying and is collaborating with K-12 school districts to eventually send out acceptance letters to every local high school graduate.
“Research shows that the number one barrier for low income kids going to college is filling out the application,” she said. “Instead of relying on K-12 to push students to us, we have every opportunity to pull them.”
K-12 cooperation will also be essential in efforts to reduce the need for remediation for incoming college freshmen, an issue that came up in the question and answer session at Spring Valley. Hauser assured attendees that the goal was not to eliminate the program, but to provide noncredit classes many students require to qualify for college level math and science courses while they’re still in high school. The state’s guaranteed transfer program would even allow students to apply the remedial courses to studies outside of CMC.
Currently, a third of new college students in Colorado and half of CMC freshmen require remediation, which Gianneschi emphasized doesn’t necessarily represent a failure on the K-12 educators. The challenge is bridging the gap between primary standards, which stop after 10th grade, and college standards for high school graduates.
In Rifle, questions ranged from the potential for new programs to long-term planning to ensure a downtown presence in the community.
Attendees at both campuses seemed gratified to have an opportunity to be heard and satisfied with the new vision: “We aspire to be the most inclusive and innovative student-centered college in the nation, elevating the economic, social, cultural, and environmental vitality of our beautiful Rocky Mountain communities.”
Or, as Gianneschi put it. “We have to be more innovative, we have to be more creative, and we have to be more relevant.”
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