Hats off to the Colorado Legislature for recently passing Bill 21-1330. It is designed to, among other things, allow four-year colleges to offer an associate’s degree, not just a bachelor’s degree.
Section 6 of the bill creates the Colorado Re-Engaged (CORE) initiative, which encourages students who left college early to return. Lawmakers sweetened the deal by encouraging four-year colleges and universities to award an associate’s degree to those who return and earn the required credits or who wish to pursue and complete their bachelor’s degree.
The state’s flagship school, the University of Colorado, is expected to lead by example by recruiting former students into the fold and helping them earn an associate’s degree. And although it is optional for universities to participate in the initiative, all should adopt this idea.
We need to do something to improve those numbers: Only 41% of new college students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years and only 59% earn one in six years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
It shouldn’t be all or nothing; you may be missing one or two courses and therefore not be able to graduate. The new associate degree would make students more marketable.
Everything has changed since the 1970s and 1980s, when only a few college credits or an associate’s degree could reward you with a career at IBM or another large Fortune 500 company.
This CORE initiative may also help somewhat with the reality that approximately 44 million Americans collectively owed $1.57 trillion in student loans in 2021 – and many still do not have a college degree.
Former students should not be punished for having to leave school due to military service, economic deprivation during the pandemic, becoming caregivers for a family member at home, lack of money to pursue education or other life challenges.
The University of New Hampshire, University of Southern California, and New York University have distanced themselves from this graduation rate problem by offering a three-year bachelor’s degree.
“There are students who went three or three and a half years to a four-year institution and dropped out for whatever reason,” said Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “Life happens – they come into the market and the highest degree they have is a high school diploma. It’s not correct. You should have something to show that is marketable.
Colorado has more than 700,000 people who have completed college but have not earned a degree.
Through the bill, the state set aside $46.5 million to be allocated to public institutions, providing direct and indirect support to students. These dollars will be managed and distributed through the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiate (COSI). This investment could eventually lead to students earning associate’s degrees and, later, bachelor’s degrees. Earning a degree will give students a job search advantage, lead to more stable families, and strengthen the economy.
The money will come from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
As the job market tightens more and more, an associate degree may become all that many workers would need to land a good job.
That’s why four-year colleges and universities need to take a hard look at how they prepare students for the job market. Is 120 hours of academic credit really that important?
The CORE initiative can immediately help approximately 13,000 former Colorado students – those who dropped out in the past three years – re-enroll and graduate. Many of them are students of color. Increasing their enrollment numbers would therefore help address diversity issues.
The money will also be used to allow schools that only offer four-year degrees to award associate degrees.
To be eligible, students must have completed at least 70 academic credit hours, be out of school for at least two consecutive semesters, and complete all associate degree requirements, which each school must determine. Students who left university less than 10 years ago could be eligible to participate in the initiative.
Let’s give our full support to the CORE initiative, which is redefining how colleges and universities can help prepare students for the real world while easing their journey to a winning college degree that will enrich their lives beyond. beyond a high school diploma.
Somehow something has to be done if higher education is to be restored to the role of provider of opportunity rather than relegated to the role of guardian of empty promises.
Many university students do not graduate. Do we give them the opportunity to get at least an associate degree?
University of Colorado: I hope you’re listening. You must give full support to the CORE initiative.
Former University of Colorado Regent Jim Martin can be reached at email@example.com.