CMU is on a pace for 10,000 students
The sleepy little college that used to occupy Grand Juncton is now a bustling university campus with an energetic atmosphere, multiple new buildings and expanding academic offerings.
No doubt, that’s a large reason why Colorado Mesa University continues to outpace other public, four-year institutions in Colorado in the rate of annual growth. Low tuition costs and great student-to-professor ratios are also major factors.
That growth is welcome news for this community’s long-term economic health.
CMU’s official enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year was 7,290 full-time equivalent students. Its rate of growth was 8.5 percent, not quite the booming 16.5 percent rate it recorded in 2009-2010, but a significant increase, nonetheless.
Furthermore, even with a more modest annual growth rate of 5 percent, CMU would reach enrollment of 10,000 students within a few years.
That would be important, not just for the university, but for the Grand Valley in general.
First, while many folks may think of college students primarily as party animals addicted to iPods or other forms of portable music, most are serious scholars and they have a significant economic impact in any community.
For example, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data for October, the lowest unemployment rate among metropolitan areas in Colorado was Boulder, at 5.7 percent. No. 2 was Fort Collins, at 5.9 percent. Grand Junction’s unemployment rate for the month was listed at 8.3 percent.
It’s no accident that the two cities with Colorado’s two largest universities had the lowest unemployment rates. That’s been the case through much of this economic downturn.
In fact, if you look at cities throughout the country that are medium-size communities with large universities, you’ll see many of them — from Madison, Wis., to Manhattan, Kans., Ann Arbor, Mich., to Ames, Iowa — are in the top ranks of metropolitan areas with low unemployment rates.
Furthermore, people with bachelor’s degrees and above have much lower unemployment rates even now than those with less education. For 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with at least a bachelor’s degree was 4.9 percent. The rate for those with only a high-school diploma was 9.4 percent.
So, adding to the numbers of Western Slope residents with college degrees will give our young adults a much better chance of procuring and maintaining productive employment.
Additionally, college graduates who stay here are more likely to develop new businesses or work with other organizations that provide more jobs for the community.
All this makes CMU’s growth good news for the region, and it’s solid evidence that the community’s investments in CMU provide a return well beyond bricks and mortar on campus.