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Degree-expansion bills move ahead

The Senate Wednesday gave final approval to a pair of bills that would allow two colleges to expand their degree offerings.

Colorado Mountain College's facility in Edwards.
Colorado Mountain College's facility in Edwards.

Senate Bill 10-101 would allow two-year Colorado Mountain College to offer up to five bachelor’s degrees, subject to review by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Senate Bill 10-079 would give Mesa State College expanded authority to offer “a limited number of” graduate degrees. Both passed on 33-1 votes.

Both colleges and their legislative supporters have argued that the expansions were necessary to serve workforce demand in their areas and the needs of working students who can’t leave jobs and families to study on the Front Range.

CMC is interested in offering bachelor’s degrees in such fields as resort and restaurant management and teaching. Mesa is interested in graduate programs in health fields, criminal justice and education.

Offering new degrees also is a way for colleges to attract more students, important at a time when tuition has become the most important source of college revenue.

Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs was the only no vote on either bill. Morse is the prime sponsor of yet-to-be-considered Senate Bill 10-003, which would give colleges and universities greater financial flexibility. That bill ultimately might include some form of tuition flexibility.

The Department of Higher Education, in the midst of developing a new strategic plan for all state colleges, had opposed the bills but changed its position after both were amended on the Senate floor earlier in the week. Department officials were particularly concerned about changing the role of CMC, which currently is two-year, multi-campus college supported by tuition and local property taxes plus some state aid.

But the CMC bill has some political muscle behind it, with 22 sponsors from both parties and strong community support in the central mountain and northwestern Colorado counties it serves.

CSU students doing better this year at the Statehouse

On a 37-28 final vote Wednesday, the House passed House Bill 10-1206, which would put two student voting members on the Colorado State University System Board of Governors. A similar bill couldn’t even make it out of a House committee last year.

The bill is opposed by the board, and lobbying against the measure is expected to continue in the Senate, where the bill currently has only one sponsor, Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins and chair of the Senate Education Committee. The bill has nine House sponsors, including one Republican.

For the record

The House voted 43-22 to pass House Bill 10-1131, which would create a fund to make grants to schools and organizations for outdoor environmental education programs.

The bill sparked an unusual amount of debate on final consideration, primarily from a handful of Republicans who seem to think it’s some sort of plot of indoctrinate schoolchildren in “green” ideology.

The measure is one of several “gifts, grants and donations” bills proposed this session, all of which rely on attracting federal or private funds.

The Senate Education Committee Wednesday approved three routine bills:

  • House Bill 10-1028 – Universal application for early childhood services
  • House Bill 10-1037 – Extension of supplemental online program
  • House Bill 10-1071 – Qualifications for CSU forestry employees

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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