By the time Kelli Adrian graduated from Colorado Mountain College’s teaching program, she had worked at three schools at four different levels. His hands-on experience led to three job offers.
Three years after graduation, Adrian, 38, said her CMC education gave her the training and connections she needed to get hired at an elementary school in Eagle, a town in the mountains. Central Colorado.
The college also offers other programs designed to enable students to obtain jobs in the area once they graduate. They include nursing education, but also community-specific job preparation, such as avalanche science, ecosystem science and stewardship, and fire science with a focus on wildland fires.
The programs are carefully designed to ensure students stay connected to local jobs, a practice lawmakers want to spread to public colleges.
A bill in the Colorado legislature would provide $91 million to expand or create programs like those at Colorado Mountain College. House Bill 1350 was unanimously approved by the House Education Committee and is expected to be passed by the full House and Senate.
The funding includes $95 million from federal money sent to states to respond to the impacts of the pandemic. The legislation is the result of a year-long state study that recommended how these funds should be used.
Along with the bill to help schools nurture regional talent, lawmakers introduced bills to better track student data and return on investment, as well as create more opportunities for students to get what is called stackable credentials. Stackable degrees are training and certification that can be acquired over time, rather than in a single stint at school.
“The idea is that we need to generate funds for local use for local needs,” said Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Democrat from Dillon, who sponsored the bill.
Not all college degrees lead to employment in the graduate’s home community.
For example, Adrian earned a degree in political science and international studies at Colorado State University years before enrolling at Colorado Mountain College.
Her first degree boosted her earning potential and market value, but that didn’t automatically mean she would get a local job where she graduated. Adrian spent years working as an event coordinator before enrolling at Colorado Mountain College.
CMC not only connected Adrian to a community of employers, but also taught her how to write a resume, clarify her goals, and ensure she got the certifications she needed to launch her teaching career. . She didn’t have this help when she got her first degree.
“If you graduated from CMC, you’ve worked closely with the surrounding community and they know you’re very, very well trained,” Adrian said. “You are trained for what employers are looking for.”
Colorado Mountain College is a public college supported by local taxpayers and offers industry certifications, as well as associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Its main campus is in Glenwood Springs. It has 10 other mountain town campuses.
School leaders credit the college’s ties to its communities for why it has prioritized programs that meet the needs of mountain towns.
CMC chief of staff Matt Gianneschi said taxpayers are demanding the college provide the training needed for students to get jobs right after graduation. To further the school’s mission to serve its community, Gianneschi sits down with local chamber of commerce leaders once a month to discuss employer needs.
He said the school maintains budgetary reserves to build new programs, or terminate them if they are no longer useful to the community. It also reorients programs if the labor market has changed.
Financial and scheduling flexibility allows the school to respond with agility to labor market changes, Gianneschi said.
He said that’s why the $91 million would go a long way to empowering school leaders across the state to think about how their schools serve communities. He also expects the money to advance the school’s mission.
“It’s about the connection to the community and the quality of academic experiences that lead to careers with sustainable pay,” Gianneschi said. “Even though our enrollment is declining, but we continue to provide this support to our community, we can consider ourselves a success.”
Jason Gonzales is a journalist covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at [email protected].