State Sen. Dan Gibbs bill to allow Colorado Mountain College to offer four-year degrees is intriguing and potentially full of merit. But it's still just a first step: Assuming the bill is passed, it will fall to CMC's staff and board of directors to create a thoughtful, deliberate process to map out what this will look like, what degrees make the most sense in our mountain communities and how it will be paid for. At present, there are more questions than answers, but if this plan can add some economic diversity to the region, create jobs and further educational opportunties for residents, it's well worth exploring.
Assuming CMC will offer a modest menu of degrees to start with, it's important those selected dovetail most closely with the needs of potential students. No doubt CMC will be focused on addressing this issue, but it will need a lot of community buy-in along the way. Students may not clamor for a philosophy or medical degree from a small school in the mountains, but things like environmental science, green building - as well as existing programs like ski area management - make a lot of sense. Plus, a smaller, nimbler institution like CMC may well be able to offer some interesting niche degrees the big colleges don't.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education has stated its resistance to the bill based on the belief that it should be part of the overall strategic plan for higher ed - due later this year. It may well be that having CCHE's blessing is critical to the effort as well, and given that CMC has functioned for many years in its current capacity, what's the rush? Other than timing, if the CCHE has any serious issues with the idea, we'd want to know what they are before moving forward. After all, the Commission is charged with ensuring a cohesive structure to the state's education system and that demand and need meet the resources. It's not a group to ignore.
-The Summit Daily Editorial Board consists of Jim Morgan, Alex Miller, Ryan Wondercheck, Matt Sandberg, Jim Ernst and Miles Porter.