Ritter signs CMC bill, others in Breckenridge Thursday | SummitDaily.com

Ritter signs CMC bill, others in Breckenridge Thursday

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

BRECKENRIDGE – With Governor Bill Ritter’s signature finally on Colorado Mountain College’s four-year degree bill, the school is in its final push to offer bachelor’s degrees in the High Country. CMC’s goal is to have up to five new four-year degree programs in place by fall 2011.The CMC bill was signed Thursday in the Breckenridge Campus auditorium before a full house, along with four other bills supported by state Sen. Dan Gibbs, state Rep. Christine Scanlan, and state Sen. Chris Romer. Ritter also signed three other bills in Breckenridge Thursday: one to study “zipper lanes” on I-70 as a means of easing congestion; the “Colorado Kids Outdoors” bill to offer youth opportunities to study environmental science education; and another I-70 bill aimed at keeping slow-moving vehicles out of the left lane. “This is a win-win for businesses, individuals and certainly the Western Slope,” Ritter said of the CMC bill during the ceremony. “Rep. Scanlan and Sen. Gibbs have been strong leaders, great partners and bold advocates for their constituents. “Their bills will improve our transportation and education systems, strengthen our economy and boost our overall quality of life. I am proud to sign these bills into law here in their district.” Currently, the community college located throughout Colorado’s mountain towns offers only two-year associate’s degrees. With the bill finally signed, the next step for officials will be to seek accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the blessing of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. To get necessary approvals, the community college must be able to demonstrate its need for new degree programs, as well as its ability to administer and fund them.”Today, we can now begin to give (four-year degree) access to our community members who live in our 12,000-square-mile district,” said Lin Stickler, CMC’s executive vice president. “They now have the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degrees. And we believe that we have a large number of citizens who would not otherwise go on to complete their degrees without this access.”Stickler also said CMC’s staff and faculty will be working “really hard” to get everything set.”We will be launching top-quality programs,” she said, predicting that new four-year degrees to be offered will include teaching certifications, business (with different focuses) and environmental science.Scanlan, the former president of the Summit County School District Board of Education, noted the bill’s likely effect on the High Country.”Currently, mountain communities are exporting their residents because they can’t get four-year degrees in their towns,” she said. “This new law will stimulate our local economies by home-growing our own college grads who may become teachers or business owners in our communities. And we’ll increase rural accessibility. This will expand economic development in the mountain areas.” With Thursday’s bill-signing ceremony being Gibbs last as a state senator, he said it was an emotional event. As a former CMC-Leadville student and a longtime Summit County local, Gibbs has been in the forefront of supporting the four-year degree bill as a way to make a “meaningful impact for everyone in the High Country.” The state senator will not be seeking re-election. Instead he’ll be running for an open County Commissioner position in Summit County this fall.Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

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