University of Colorado President identifies trends and gaps in post-secondary education statewide
Colorado’s âacademic paradoxâ is alive and well in the state’s higher education system.
Colorado has a highly educated population, but smarties come from out of state and local students don’t see the value of a four-year college degree.
The University of Colorado consults with school districts, businesses, and local governments statewide to determine what affects young people’s perceptions of higher education.
The college has identified trends that are occurring not only on its campuses but across the state, CU president Todd Saliman said. For example, 40% of Colorado students do not pursue post-secondary degrees, with men lagging behind women in enrollment and graduation rates.
Another factor that Saliman says is declining statewide is student retention rates. Fort Lewis College has struggled with retention issues for over a decade, and some of those students who did not return to FLC for their sophomore or freshman years ended up at CU.
In the fall of 2020, 426 students from southwest Colorado enrolled in CU, CU spokesperson Michael Sandler said in an email to The Herald of Durango. There have been 98 transfers from FLC to CU in the past five years. On average, Sandler said, these transfer students move out with 60 to 90 credit hours on their transcripts.
Sandler broke down the number of Southwest Colorado students enrolled in CU in fall 2020:
- Archuleta County: 21 students.
- Delta County: 51 students.
- Dolores County: 0 students.
- Gunnison County: 54 students.
- La Plata County: 130 students.
- Montezuma County: 14 students.
- Montrose County: 73 students.
- Ouray County: 10.
- San Juan County: 0 students.
- San Miguel County: 73 students.
Saliman said higher education has an image problem.
âThere are more and more people who are questioning the value of a four-year degree,â he said. “… It’s part of what we’ve tried to work on is trying to understand why people think this and how do we communicate to them in a way that helps them appreciate the value of a four-year program. degree.”
Much of it is math, said Saliman.
People with a four-year degree will earn more income, be more likely to have a job and be less likely to be regularly unemployed, he said.
âIt makes your life better,â he said. âWe have a communication problem.
Saliman said half of CU’s students had no debt, and among students with debt, the average debt was $ 2,700. He said, however, that discussions about college affordability can seem patronizing. The University of Colorado offers an online calculator on their website where students can calculate their projected expenses on their own.
New state legislation has come into effect for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond that allows Indigenous students of any federally recognized Native American tribe to attend Colorado public colleges at tuition rates of the state. The University of Colorado board of trustees led efforts to pass the law, Saliman said.
He said the average tuition fees on all CU campuses for students eligible for aid and from families with incomes of $ 100,000 or less are around $ 2,200 per year.
âThere’s this national story that has racked up about $ 200,000 in debt and $ 100,000 in tuition,â Saliman said. âWhen you go to a public institution and you’re a resident student, that just isn’t the case. This is simply not the case. It is simply not true.
The various gaps in education
Women enroll and earn four-year degrees at a higher rate than men across the country, and girls generally do better on tests than boys at high school, said Saliman.
At FLC this fall, 512 undergraduate women enrolled full-time, while 399 men enrolled full-time. Almost 1,000 more women than men applied to FLC.
Men are still predominant in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but Saliman said he’s not sure why women are taking such a lead in higher education.
The gender gap isn’t the only trend Saliman is noticing. He said there was an urban-rural divide and even a partisan divide – more liberals attend universities than conservatives, he said.
Another trend identified by CU is that low-income people and people of color have lower enrollment and graduation rates, even compared to the generally low rates at colleges in Colorado, Saliman said.
FLC is notable in that it hosts the largest number of native students of any college in Colorado. LTC allows Native Americans to attend college tuition-free. Forty-two percent of students are Native American or Alaska Native, and 57% of the student body is people of color, but no black freshmen enrolled this fall and there were only 31 black undergraduate students enrolled in FLC in October.
In the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s annual report on Access to and Achievement in Postsecondary Education, higher education was described as a “primary driver on the road to equity.”
Diversifying and achieving equity does not happen overnight, said Saliman.
Saliman said the CU approaches equity in several ways: there has been its successful legislative push to allow out-of-state Native Americans to attend Colorado public colleges at state tuition rates; the university strives to make its faculty and staff more ethnically diverse on its campuses; students and faculty are interviewed so that CU administration can understand college culture and whether people feel they belong on campus.
SAT / ACT test result submissions are optional for students applying to CU. Saliman said the college is looking at applicants’ backgrounds and experiences outside of the classroom – “beyond the numbers,” he said – to better understand their future students as individuals.
The university was the first in the country to adopt a policy of non-discrimination regarding political opinions and philosophies, said Sue Sharkey, member of the board of regents.
âWhen we talk about wanting to be a welcoming place and wanting people to feel like they belongâ¦ we want people with different political views to feel welcome too,â said Saliman.