Flight schools to join college in programs


New fields of study

These programs have all been approved by the Mesa State College board of trustees for implementation this fall, but still must be approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education:

• Technical certificate in aviation technology (for fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters)

• Technical certificate in medical office assistant

• Technical certificate in insurance

• Technical certificate in energy management/landman

• Bachelor of Science in exercise science

• Bachelor of Arts in kinesiology with concentration in fitness and health promotion

Western Colorado Community College is set to offer two new programs this fall for would-be pilots.

If the programs receive final approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the community college will offer a technical certificate in aviation technology for fixed-wing aircraft,  in partnership with pilot-training company Colorado Flight Center, 800 Heritage Way. The college also is set to offer a technical certificate in aviation technology for helicopters, in partnership with helicopter training center Suncrest Aviation, 2874 Aviators Way.

Each program would qualify graduates for a career as a professional plane or helicopter pilot. The helicopter program is set to handle 20 students in its first year and the fixed-wing program 10 students in the first year.

The difference between what the flight schools offer now and what they would offer with the college is a matter of college credit being earned. Earning college credit means students will have the opportunity to apply for financial aid as a Western Colorado Community College student and apply for a lengthy list of national aviation scholarships.

“There are numerous scholarships available to students seeking professional pilot training,” Colorado Flight Center co-owner Bradley Sullivan said.

Each student would pay community college tuition for classes on the ground as well as a fee for hourly instruction at the flight centers. That fee at Colorado Flight Center for a full, two-year certificate program will be about $90,000, according to Colorado Flight Center co-owner and General Manager Collin Fay.

Suncrest Aviation co-owner John Kay said he does not want to comment until the program becomes official.

“It’s not cheap, but that’s the case with any college program,” Fay said.

Fay said the first few years as a commercial pilot aren’t the most lucrative, but he knows some airline pilots who earn up to $300,000 annually after several years on the job. He said jobs in the aviation field “are picking up a little” but doesn’t expect students who would get technical certificates to stay in western Colorado.

“There is not much demand for jobs here, except charter work,” Fay said, although nothing precludes commercial pilots stationed in Salt Lake City or Denver from living here.

Jobs in the aviation industry overall are growing, according to Sullivan. The Federal Aviation Administration this year forecast jobs in the industry will double by 2031 as the economy recovers and more people board longer flights. Sullivan said the required airline retirement age of 65 also means a lot of pilots who were trained during the Vietnam War will be leaving their jobs and need replacements.

The helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft programs are among five new technical certificate and two new bachelor’s degree programs for which Mesa State College and its community college are seeking approval to offer this fall. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education will have to approve the programs during its May 6 meeting in order for classes to begin in August.

The other new certificates being proposed are for medical office assistance, insurance, and energy-management/landman. New four-year programs being proposed are a bachelor of science in exercise science and a new concentration, fitness and health promotion, for the bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

The college has added five bachelor’s programs, four associate degree programs and two master’s programs since 2004. Classes were introduced this spring for a doctoral program for nurse practitioners, the college’s first doctoral program.

The college is likely to keep adding programs, especially if demand for graduate-level programs grows and the college becomes a university. In a teleconference with alumni last month about the potential change to a university, Mesa State President Tim Foster said future master’s degree programs might include one for exercise science, which would have students routinely interacting with the Monfort Family Human Performance Lab.

The college’s impending construction of a forensic anthropology lab, or “body farm,” could signal an opportunity for a forensics-related master’s degree, Foster said.


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