Colorado's Finish What You Started program will receive $49 million in COVID relief funds to bolster the initiative and bring college students back to finish their degree.
College enrollment has hemorrhaged at least one million students since the pandemic hit. Young adults are opting straight for the workforce industry as the worth of a degree wanes, but also, many college students are simply dropping out – without a plan to return. Understanding the impact this can have on their state, Colorado lawmakers have an extensive plan to bring students back to finish their college degrees.
According to reports from Chalkbeat, the Centennial State is reserving $49 million in COVID relief funds to support initiatives to bring college students back to school who have previously left without finishing their degrees. The money will expand the state’s Finish What You Started program. The initiative works in collaboration with both community colleges and universities in the state.
The main goal for Finish What You Started? Bringing back as many residents as they can who recently dropped out. Some 700,000 college students in Colorado have credits, but no degree.
The program is helping public schools to expand their offerings of college-level courses to help teens get a head start and be more prepared for freshman year. Additionally, the state will use to program in an attempt to persuade residents of the importance of a degree. For example, one provided statistic found that 86% of community college programs produce a return on what college students spend on their degree within five years of graduation.
Finish What You Started provides returning college students with access to financial aid and scholarships. Coaching and support are offered throughout the entire process as well. Enrollment woes are eased with guidance through the entire process, and coaches give one on one support to set up plans and keep students on track to follow through.
The benefits of the initiative go even further. After attaining their degree, the program offers real-world support by matching college students to jobs that fit their credentials. And for those struggling to make the return because of food insecurity or family needs, the program helps them put food on the table, and find child care.
State lawmakers have expressed urgency over the need to bolster the plan to bring college students back. The state imports a large number of workers from other area’s to fill jobs that require college training. What’s more, the ever-rising cost of living and housing market has made the issue far worse.
The issue is believed to have been exacerbated by the lack of funding the state earmarked for high education over the past few decades. Today, only about half of the state’s high school graduates go on to become college students. Students of color fare far worse, attending college and earning their degrees at much lower rates.
College students left higher education for various reasons. For some, the costs were simply too much. Plus, America’s strong job market meant that non-degree jobs became more attractive as salaries rose.
Colorado is hopeful that the Finish What You Started program will show promising turnarounds by 2025. Combined with other initiatives, like Colorado Promise which offers low-income families free tuition, the efforts are there. Now, it is up to the state to promote and boost those efforts, if they wish to turn the situation around.