CMC four-year college bill passes in Senate

A bill allowing Colorado Mountain College to begin offering four-year degrees cleared the state Senate on a near-unanimous vote Wednesday after being revised to address concerns of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The Senate voted 33-1 in favor of the measure. A similar bill next will be considered by the House Education Committee.

The Department of Higher Education wanted the proposal delayed until a strategic planning initiative covering the state’s entire higher education system was completed. However, the department’s concerns were addressed through bill amendments, including one clarifying the college would need to have individual degrees approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, as is currently the case with associate degrees the college offers.

Other amendments include a requirement that the college can offer no more than five, four-year degrees unless it receives further legislative approval.

“If we are able to grant even limited types of bachelor’s degrees, we know that will allow us to meet more of the unmet needs of people living within our mountain communities,” CMC president Stan Jensen said in a news release.

John Karakoulakis, director of legislative affairs for the Department of Higher Education, said that besides limiting the number of degrees, the bill requires that the college demonstrate it can deliver them in the most cost-effective way, and doing so won’t require more state funds or create a negative fiscal impact for the college.

“We feel this is a sufficient way to limit them and at the same time to allow Colorado Mountain College to address the needs of the community and try to provide the opportunities that are being asked for,” Karakoulakis said.

The college serves a 12,000-square-mile region that stretches from Rifle to Summit County and Steamboat Springs to Buena Vista. The region has no baccalaureate-granting institution within it.

Surveys by CMC show a high interest in four-year-degree programs in areas including resort-related business and teacher education. CMC has been talking with its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, about what will be required to achieve accreditation for offering four-year degrees.


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