The Master Plan

What is the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) and Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE)?

The CCHE is the central policy and coordinating board for higher education in the state of Colorado. The commission consists of volunteer members appointed by the governor to serve one to two terms. The CDHE is a state agency that carries out the policies of the CCHE and helps coordinate Colorado’s public colleges and universities.

What is the Master Plan?

The master plan is a document developed by the CCHE that lays out a vision and goals for our system of higher education to meet the state’s needs. The 2017 master plan, Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development, puts forth a statewide goal: by 2025, 66 percent of adults will earn a post-high school credential — whether a certificate, two-year or four-year degree.  The master plan then lays out four strategic goals within the scope of the public institutions of higher education to help us get there.

Why do we need a master plan for higher education?

Today, education beyond high school is a necessity, not a luxury. As the economy continues its rapid shift to information services and technology, colleges and universities are more critical than ever in preparing individuals for the jobs of today, with the skills and knowledge to adapt, fill and create the jobs of tomorrow.

This work takes investment. Colorado continues to rank in the bottom of per-student funding, resulting in rising costs and tuition for families. The master plan maps out a path forward to help make our higher education institutions more affordable, equitable and accessible for all Coloradans. By concentrating our efforts on our four strategic goals, we hope to not only improve postsecondary outcomes for Colorado students, but also strengthen our workforce and maintain our economic growth.

Why a statewide attainment goal of 66 percent by 2025?

Our state’s economic vitality hinges on increasing attainment. Research suggests that by 2020, almost three-fourths of Colorado jobs will require some education beyond high school. Currently, only 55 percent of the adult population in Colorado has a degree or certificate, with significant attainment gaps between minority and white students1. While we’re not the only state to set an ambitious attainment goal, CCHE set the bar high to meet our changing economic and workforce demands.

What are the four strategic goals?

Colorado Rises lays out a statewide attainment goal, followed by four strategic goals that are in the scope of the public institutions of higher education and intended to help all Coloradans earn a credential beyond a high school diploma. The strategic goals are 1) increase credential completion, 2) erase equity gaps, 3) improve student success, and 4) invest in affordability and innovation. Goal summaries can be found on the Executive Summary page.

What are the equity gaps in Colorado?

Significant attainment gaps exist between minority and white students. Only 29 percent of Hispanics, our fastest-growing population, and 39 percent of African Americans have a certificate or degree, as compared to 64 percent for the white majority. That means our white majority population earns a credential at more than twice the rate of Hispanics and Latinos and about 1.5 times the rate of African Americans. Our attainment gap is the second largest in the nation, barely behind California.

Do other states have an attainment goal like Colorado?

Including Colorado, there are 40 states that meet the Lumina Foundation’s definition of states with strong attainment goals. The Lumina Foundation set a national goal of increasing the proportion of Americans with credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Colorado’s skills-based economy and workforce requires a more ambitious goal. In fact, demand for college-educated adults in Colorado is the fifth highest in the nation.

How will Colorado track progress?

With the help of our institution partners, we are developing a dashboard to track annual progress. Please check back in a few months to review the data.

Are these goals attainable?

The goals in the master plan are neither easy nor cheap. They are aggressive and we believe if we all work together—public, private, two-year and four-year institutions, policy leaders and communities—we can achieve great results. Like any solid investment, the benefits we will ultimately enjoy will far exceed the cost. This master plan challenges the state—our elected officials, business and civic leaders and communities—to invest in Coloradans so our state can work for everyone.

What happens if institutions don’t meet the goals?

If goals are not met, we risk leaving entire segments of the population behind as our economy continues to shift rapidly. Social costs, such as unemployment and public safety nets, will increase as we become less economically competitive. Colorado simply cannot afford an undereducated population and an underfunded higher education system:  we must rise to the challenge.

How can I help?

The stakes are high – we must rise to this challenge. Will you join us?

For our part, CDHE and CCHE will

  • Launch a statewide advocacy campaign to draw attention to this crucial issue.
  • Equip you with the tools and messages to engage your communities in our collective work.
  • Continue to advocate for our high-quality system of higher education and the value of investment.
  • Provide a policy environment that encourages innovation and leads to stronger student outcomes.

We need you become a higher education champion in your community. It’s easy to get involved:

  • Talk to your neighbors, friends and family about the importance of having a certificate or degree in today’s economy.
  • Write to your state, local and federal representatives and tell them you support equitable, affordable and accessible higher education and training.
  • Connect with CareerWise Colorado and hire an apprentice for your business or organization.
  • Donate your time, expertise or funds to a student support services organization near you.
  • Spread the good news happening on campuses far and wide on social media, and be sure to share DHE posts too.
  1. Recovery: Job growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, State Report. Anthony P. Carnevale, Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University, 2013