Colorado Mountain College bestows 1st bachelor’s degrees

Several years ago, Robyn Kent of New Castle was considering a return to work as her youngest child was approaching school age, but she worried about her prospects.

“I was feeling like who’s going to ever hire me because I’ve been out of work for so long,” she recalls.

Today, Kent, 33, has achieved what previously would have been impossible, taking local classes to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Now she’s dreaming of running her own business.

All that was made possible by hard work, but also by the fact that Colorado Mountain College had begun offering its first-ever four-year degrees.

The first recipients are graduating this spring. As the only four-year degree recipient at CMC’s Rifle campus, Kent was honored as student speaker at the campus graduation Friday.

Three years ago, then-Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill letting CMC offer a limited number of bachelor’s degrees. Before that, “There was no physical location where our local residents could earn a bachelor’s degree within our service area, which is the size of the state of Maryland,” Brad Tyndall, CMC senior vice president of academic affairs, said in a news release.

This spring, 58 students petitioned to be the first to receive bachelor’s degrees from the college. The first are being offered in business administration and sustainability studies.

However, CMC also is exploring expanding its four-year offerings to nursing and teacher’s education, actions that would be subject to approvals within the college, from an accrediting institution and from several state agencies.

CMC spokeswoman Debra Crawford said in 2011-12, the first year the college offered upper-division courses, 222 students enrolled. That compared to projected enrollment of 150. For 2012-13, an estimated 404 students are enrolled in such courses, versus a projected 300.

Associate business professor Susan Looney said the response has been outstanding.

“They would never have had the opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree if CMC had not offered these because they are tied to the area with family,” she said.

Most have full-time jobs already and are working to advance in their careers, change careers, or go on to get master’s degrees and even go to law school, she said.

Kent said she’s found work with real estate agent Don Mark-
ley of the Re/Max office in New Castle. With his encouragement, she now plans to work on getting a real estate license this summer, and can envision going into business herself.

The new four-year degree offering opened a door for Kent. Long hours of dedicated studying got her through it.

Now, she said, “I’m just kind of following my path.”


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