Letter From the Commissoners

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE), the official body charged with the responsibility of examining the postsecondary needs of the state,1

laid out four goals for Colorado’s system of higher education in its 2012 CCHE Master Plan, Colorado Competes: A Completion Agenda for Higher Education.

Today, in 2017, we revisit those goals and examine our progress. While reaffirming the core findings and recommendations from 2012, we recognize that it is not enough to merely stay the course. If the state of Colorado is to prepare its students for changing workforce demands while maintaining its high quality of life and vibrant economy, it must invest more in the educational attainment of all of its citizens. Failure to do so will result in entire segments of our population being left behind, increased social costs and reduced fiscal competitiveness. Colorado simply cannot afford an undereducated citizenry and an underfunded higher education system.

We present this 2017 update to the master plan, Colorado Rises: Advancing Education and Talent Development, as a call to action for Colorado—our institutions of higher education, the Governor, the General Assembly and other state policy leaders, business and community leaders. We do so with the highest sense of responsibility to the citizens of Colorado, a great respect for the colleges and universities in our state and a profound sense of urgency.

Colorado continues to rank lowest among the states in per-student funding, resulting in the cost of education being increasingly shifted to students through higher tuition. Rising tuition and related costs in turn create an unprecedented financial burden on Colorado families. In the face of these budgetary challenges, access to and success in higher education remains elusive for too many of our citizens.

Colorado simply cannot afford an undereducated citizenry and an underfunded higher education system.

We believe that the CCHE’s goal of increasing Coloradans’ educational attainment is even more important today than it was five years ago. This statewide goal, which extends beyond our public colleges and universities, reflects what is necessary for a healthy workforce and economy. The four strategic goals that follow address a more focused list of objectives for our public institutions that are meaningful, measurable and will improve postsecondary outcomes for the students of Colorado.

Underlying this master plan are the following principles:

  • Higher education is a public good that strongly benefits Colorado’s communities and the state;
  • The higher education system should be accessible to all, not just those with adequate personal financial means; and
  • Institutions of higher education have a responsibility to demonstrate their stewardship of public resources.

More than aspirational, the master plan ambitiously sets the priorities that we believe are the most pressing for the educational performance and economic vitality of Colorado. It does not focus on the needs of any one institution, nor does it recommend specific campus practices or instructional activities

We know that pursuing the goals in this plan will be neither easy nor inexpensive. But like any solid investment, the benefits we will ultimately enjoy will be far greater than the cost of disinvestment. The combined lost income and tax revenue, increased unemployment and health care and other public-service costs that have been linked to lower education rates is too high a price for Colorado to pay. The strategic goals in this plan are a priority list of ambitious, yet attainable, commitments that will expand opportunities and improve

Colorado simply cannot afford an undereducated citizenry and an underfunded higher education system. We know that pursuing the goals in this plan will be neither easy nor inexpensive. But like any solid investment, the benefits we will ultimately enjoy will be far greater than the cost of disinvestment. The combined lost income and tax revenue, increased unemployment and health care and other public-service costs that have been linked to lower education rates is too high a price for Colorado to pay. The strategic goals in this plan are a priority list of ambitious, yet attainable, commitments that will expand opportunities and improve quality of life for all Coloradans. We believe they represent the path toward a more economically sound future for the state of Colorado.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education

Luis Colon

(Chair) Lone Tree, CO

Renny Fagan

(Vice-Chair) Denver, CO

John L. Anderson

Durango, CO

Maia Babbs

Golden, CO

Mary Beth Buescher

Grand Junction, CO

Cassie Gannett

Colorado Springs, CO

Jeanette Garcia

Pueblo, CO

Vanecia Kerr

Denver, CO

Tom McGimpsey

Denver, CO

Monte Moses

Englewood, CO

Paula Sandoval

Denver, CO

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  1. C.R.S. 23-1-108(1.5)(b)(1)