More students aiming for higher degrees at CMU

While the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded by Colorado Mesa University continues to rise, the number of associate degrees and certificates awarded by the Colorado Mesa system dipped last year.

The number of certificates and associate degrees, earned mostly at the university’s Western Colorado Community College, decreased 14.2 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, year over year in 2010–11. Meanwhile, bachelor’s and master’s degrees had a 4.2 percent and 6.3 percent boost, respectively.

The decline in one-year and two-year degrees is a result of overachievement, according to Brigitte Sundermann, Colorado Mesa’s vice president of community college affairs.

“It looks like they went down this last year, but in reality we had stable enrollment, and some students that went through the certificate program didn’t apply for certificates and applied for an associate or a bachelor’s” instead of completing their education with a certificate, Sundermann said.

Partly as a result of more would-be short-term students sticking around for four-year or graduate degrees, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by Colorado Mesa increased 21 percent to 639 in 2010-11. The number of master’s degrees awarded by the university has grown each year since 2005–06, when then-Mesa State College awarded nine graduate-level degrees. In 2010–11, Colorado Mesa awarded 51 master’s degrees.

Until last year, certificates had become more popular each year as well. More certificates were awarded each year from 2002 to 2008, until they took a slight dip in 2008–09 before jumping 89 percent in 2009–10.

Though some associate degree students may have moved on to bachelor’s programs, two-year programs have been on the decline for longer than certificates. The number of associate degrees awarded by Western Colorado Community College has see-sawed every year in the past six years, and the number of associate graduates has declined or remained flat since 2007–08.

Even with associate degree numbers flat, enrollment continues to grow at the community college. Sundermann said the community college now has nearly 2,000 students on track for a one-year or two-year degree, and an additional 450 high school students concurrently are enrolled at the community college and at a high school. Sundermann said the jump in enrollment and graduates in 2009–10 resulted from more people deciding to pursue a degree after the recession hit locally in early 2009. She doesn’t expect that enrollment level to last.

“It does taper off. As the economy picks up, people will go back to work and may not finish a degree,” she said.


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