Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed into law House Bill 19-1153, which authorizes Colorado Mountain College to expand the number of bachelor’s degree programs it offers.
The bill was sponsored by a bipartisan mountain delegation, including Rep. Julie McCluskie, Rep. Jim Wilson, Sen. Kerry Donovan and Sen. Bob Rankin, and it passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously.
In 2010, after 40 years of providing associate degrees and certificates, Colorado Mountain College responded to requests from local residents and employers and added four-year degrees.
The change increased accessibility to higher education in rural and mountain resort communities, resulting in greater numbers of college graduates to support their local economies, a press release stated.
At that time, after receiving authorization from the state and approval from the college’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, CMC launched five bachelor’s degree programs in nursing, elementary education, business administration, sustainability studies and leadership and management.
With the new, expanded authorization in place, CMC officials said they plan to be selective and thoughtful about offering new degree programs, though they are eyeing opportunities to support employers in high-growth health care fields, local government and secondary (middle and high school) education.
“Based on the lessons we learned in offering those first five degrees, we are being asked again by local residents, employers and taxpayers to broaden our degree offerings to meet workforce demands,” CMC President Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser said.
“Doing so will also contribute to Colorado’s higher education master plan and help to sustain the state’s dynamic and rapidly changing economy.”
Wilson (R-Salida), who represents House District 60, said he was “happy to see this bill go through for my counties” and looks forward to seeing its impact on the community.
He said he sponsored the bill because under the old statute Colorado Mountain College was limited in its ability to expand its district grants and was only able to offer a maximum of five bachelors degrees.
He said it was obviously important for Chaffee County and Colorado Mountain College to have the flexibility the new bill provides.
While the number of four-year degrees is not unlimited, the new bill creates the possibility of expanding the baccalaureate opportunities within the district.