Success from the session: Options at community colleges | The Bell Policy Center

Success from the session: Options at community colleges

Senior policy analyst Frank Waterous, fourth from left,
shares a light moment during the signing of the bill.

When helping students and increasing opportunity is the driving force behind a piece of legislation, it stands a good chance of succeeding. It's also something that we at the Bell will support.

That was the case with Senate Bill 14-004, Community College Four-Year Programs, which was on Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk today. In signing the bill, the governor made it possible for more Coloradans, including both traditional-age and working adult students, to gain the education and skills they need for continued professional advancement and career success.

For many students, post-secondary education starts at a community college, but often, students who earn a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree face obstacles in continuing their education toward a bachelor's degree – such as difficulty in transferring credits, family or work commitments, distance from a four-year college or increased cost.

(Right: Two of the sponsors,Rep. James Wilson and Sen. Nancy Todd, celebrate after Gov. John Hickenlooper finishes signing the bill.)

Now, community colleges will be able to offer Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in technical, career and workforce-related fields, which will make it possible for many Coloradans, including many in rural areas, to earn a four-year college credential. This expanded degree authority includes only Bachelor of Applied Science programs, not Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. And as a practical matter, community colleges must demonstrate both student and industry demand for proposed degree programs before gaining approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to offer them.

We believe this change will be good for students, because it will help them attain the bachelor's-level education and skills needed for advancement in their careers; good for employers, because it will help businesses fill critical positions necessary for increased productivity and growth; and good for our state, because it will strengthen the quality of our workforce and enhance our economic competitiveness.

We thank Sen. Nancy Todd and Reps. James Wilson and Jenise May for sponsoring this legislation and Gov. Hickenlooper for signing it.