The Colorado legislature gave final approval Monday to a measure that would allow Colorado Mountain College (CMC) to offer bachelor's degrees. The proposal is now headed to the governor's desk.
Currently, the college offers two-year associate's degrees. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs (D-Summit County), would permit the college to offer as many as five baccalaureate degrees. CMC has seven campuses in mountain communities throughout northwest Colorado, including Summit County, Aspen, Steamboat Springs and the Vail-Eagle Valley. No other institution in the region now offers four-year degrees.
"We are so grateful for the legislators, community members and business leaders who have supported passage of this bill," CMC president Stan Jensen said. "We look forward to being able to offer some tremendous opportunities to our students and our communities."
Should the measure receive Gov. Ritter's approval, the college would then need accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission and the blessing of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Through the accreditation process, CMC would have to demonstrate the need for the new degree programs as well as the college's ability to administer and fund them.
The college conducted surveys of its communities to determine which kinds of four-year programs would have the greatest demand. Respondents indicated a strong desire for business, teacher-education and health-care degrees.
The college will move forward in the business and education arenas first, offering some preliminary upper-level classes as early as fall 2010. Full baccalaureate degree programs could be in place by the following fall.
Jensen said the expanded programming would be funded through tuition and would not require new taxpayer dollars.
"This will really enhance the investment the taxpayers of the state of Colorado have already made in our campuses, our staff and our faculty," Jensen said.
The college will continue to be open-access, in the manner of a community college. Officials are working to determine whether a separate application process would be required of students seeking to enter the bachelor's degree programs.
Jensen does not anticipate much change to tuition rates, which are set to be $49 per credit hour for fall 2010.
"We want to continue to place ourselves as the best value in education in Colorado," Jensen said.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.