One of Summit County's hidden gems is no longer quite so hidden. Hopefully, with the dedication of Colorado Mountain College's new Breckenridge campus, this educational jewel will be more in the public eye. It should be.
Community colleges are a phenomenon of 20th century America. One of their roots can be traced to the Panic of 1893, and the suggestion by Texas' Baylor University that smaller, financially -pressed four-year schools cut their curriculum to the first two years, and rely on Baylor to provide students the final two years of post-secondary education. This thinking is behind the "junior college" model, designed to provide a basic education in liberal arts or science to those students who wish to continue to a four-year degree.
Over the following few decades, as manufacturing, business, health care and other areas of employment became more complex, additional post-secondary education programs were added, creating "technical" or "vocational" colleges for those seeking work-related certifications or advanced training.
The final step in the evolution of the comprehensive community college was a blending of the first two types, with an admixture of continuing and adult education, formal technical education and community-oriented programs. The Colorado Community College system is one of these comprehensive institutions.
What can you study at CMC? Well, not quite "anything," but the list is very extensive. From Cultural Anthropology to Culinary Arts, Algebra to American Tribal Belly Dancing, Wilderness Emergency Management to Western Civilization, you can find classes for it here in Summit County. And there's more. This year, CMC is offering 34 degree and certificate programs to 3,400 students both in person and online, in addition to workforce and continuing education programs.
Why choose a community college? A list of the most important reasons would doubtless include convenience, price and quality.
Convenience goes without saying. CMC Summit is close to home if you live in Summit County, or nearby. No pulling up stakes and moving, just to get the first couple of years of college under your belt, or to study the fine art of cooking.
These days, price is also a consideration in choosing a postsecondary institution - just as it is when buying anything else. As the argument goes, "If you wouldn't pay $7.95 for a loaf of bread, why would you pay three times as much for an education?" If you've checked the tuition costs at the University of Colorado or DU lately, you know that CMC beats four-year schools in Colorado, hands down - a significant factor in many students' choice of community college for their first two years of a four-year degree program.
Of course, cost cannot be considered in a vacuum. Value, or quality for the price, is the really important factor, and on that score, CMC is also impressive. Education in culinary arts involves studying with master chefs, and the opportunity to work at local five-star restaurants. Ski area operations classes require apprenticeships at cooperating local ski areas. In academic disciplines, lower-division classes - those 100- and 200-level courses required as precedents for advanced study and graduation at four-year state institutions - are taught at CMC with the same parameters, requirements, metrics and often, materials as at Colorado's state universities. Credits for most academic classes are fully transferable, and are noted as such.
There are, of course, differences. A basic math or chemistry class at CSU might have 75-100 students. At CMC, it would have about 20. Basic history classes at the University of Colorado are often so large interaction with the professor is next to impossible. At CMC's Dillon campus, it happens as a matter of course; indeed, with a class of 10-20 students, it is impossible to avoid. This often leads to a far more fruitful and rewarding classroom experience and for many, a much higher level of both subject area knowledge and the ability to use it - important considerations as a student advances academically.
CMC also offers a wide range of classes via interactive video and on-line, for those who have difficulty making it to a traditional classroom.
So whether you would like to update your skills as a Certified Cisco Network Associate or EMT; get a Real Estate Broker's license or a two-year degree in Nursing; an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education or Liberal Arts; or maybe just hone your Fung Shui, Colorado Mountain College offers you the opportunity to do so, close to home. Drop by, or check them out on line; you're sure to find something to pique your interest.
From soup to sailing to the science of biology, our college is a gem. Enjoy.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column and also teaches history and humanities at CMC. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.