ASC joins other southern Colorado colleges to improve regional education with $750,000 FIPSE grant

(11-01-2010)

Fueled by a $750,000 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Adams State College and nine other southern Colorado colleges and universities will work cooperatively to increase the number of southern Colorado residents who attend college.

The 10 members of the Southern Colorado Education Consortium agreed Oct. 25 to expand efforts to encourage current middle and high school students to continue their education past high school. Consortium members agree that part of the effort must be to eliminate barriers perceived by many students and parents.

The Southern Colorado Higher Education Consortium was formed in June 2009 for the purposes of enhancing educational opportunities for southern Colorado residents, supporting efforts to improve the quality of life in the region, and supporting regional economic development. The members of the Southern Colorado Education Consortium are Adams State College, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Fort Lewis College, Lamar Community College, Otero Community College, Pikes Peak Community College, Pueblo Community College, Trinidad State Junior College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Western State College. The FIPSE grant is the first federal funds supporting the consortium and is recognition of the importance of its efforts.

(L-R) President Jim Rizutto, Otero Junior College; President Felix Lopez, Trinidad State College; President David Svaldi, Adams State College; Chancellor Pam Shokley-Zabek, UCCS; President Dene Thomas, Ft. Lewis College; President Patty Erjavec, Pubelo Community College; President John Marin, Lamar Community College; Dr. Ross Meyer, Provost, CSU Pueblo.

(L-R) President Jim Rizutto, Otero Junior College; President Felix Lopez, Trinidad State College; President David Svaldi, Adams State College; Chancellor Pam Shokley-Zabek, UCCS; President Dene Thomas, Ft. Lewis College; President Patty Erjavec, Pubelo Community College; President John Marin, Lamar Community College; Dr. Ross Meyer, Provost, CSU Pueblo.

"Adams State is committed to working with our nine partner institutions to reach out to middle and high school students in southern Colorado," said Adams State President David Svaldi. "Too often, colleges and universities compete, rather than cooperate for the good of students. We ten institutions and their CEO's truly are committed to improving college attendance rates and completion rates for southern Colorado middle and high school students."

Since its founding in 1925 as a teacher's college for rural Colorado, Adams State has always made important contributions to educational opportunity, economic development, and cultural enrichment in Southern Colorado. As one of Colorado's most cost-effective four-year institutions, Adams State maintains its historic commitment to working with underserved populations, including underrepresented minorities, first-generation, and low-income students. Many students would not be able to attend college, if not for Adams State's affordability. Adams State is responsive to the needs of its highly diverse student body and takes pride in exceptional undergraduate teaching and learning.

With the grant dollars, the two-and four-year colleges and universities will develop multiple outreach efforts to more than 300 southern Colorado middle and high schools. The schools will develop models to boost enrollment of adult students as well as an estimated 15,000 current middle and high school students who have the potential to be the first in their family to attend college, are members of an ethnic minority group, or are low-income.

"The key to long-term economic success at both the personal and broader community level is education," Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs said. "Companies are interested in hiring people who are well-educated and coming to communities with a well-educated population. By improving the education of our citizens, our communities are ensuring their future."

In November, teams from each college will meet to determine the details of the outreach efforts. A partnership with Cisco Technologies Inc., will be utilized to connect schools and individuals. Cisco's widely advertised Telepresence system is being used to connect students from around the globe in high-definition, real-time television. The consortium will explore using the company's technology to connect rural middle and high schools with a regional college to deliver advanced science and math courses as well as presentations about obtaining financial assistance for college or the value of a college education.

In the 23 county southeastern Colorado region, about 19 percent of adults have college degrees compared to almost 36 percent in metropolitan Denver. Colorado also has a large education achievement gap between its Caucasian and ethnic minority residents. Correspondingly, income levels in southern Colorado are lower than those of northern Colorado.

In what often is called the Colorado paradox, fewer native-born Coloradans earn college degrees than adults statewide. Concern about Colorado's reliance on importing people who often take the state's highest paying jobs was a driving factor in the consortium's decision to pursue grant funds to increase college enrollment.