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Opinion: Let’s help college graduates get on their feet so Colorado can retain top talent

A college degree or credential is more important than ever in today’s economy. The majority of jobs in Colorado already require some sort of education beyond high school.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education set the goal to ensure 66% of our population has a college degree or credential by 2025, and the state Senate has responded with legislation to help achieve it.

Colorado Sen. Steve Fenberg, Rep. Leslie Herod and Rep. Julie McCluskie recently introduced the “Get on Your Feet” bill, which establishes a student loan repayment program to assist recent graduates of Colorado institutions.

From left: Rep. Julie McCluskie, Rep. Leslie Herod and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg.

There are some rumors created by its opposition, and the claims can be misleading.

Currently, over 761,000 Coloradans work to repay more than $27.7 billion in student loans. This staggering amount holds back our state’s economy.

New graduates create jobs that yield tax revenue and contribute toward building a stronger economy.

And studies have proved that adults with a postsecondary education rely on fewer social services and public safety nets.


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The darkest areas of the map indicate higher student debt burden. Source: Mappingstudentdebt.org

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The darkest areas of the map indicate higher rates of student loan delinquency. Source: Mappingstudentdebt.org


Make no mistake: “Get on Your Feet” is not a loan forgiveness program. It does not let graduates off the hook. Graduates will need to pay their loans back. Students make a commitment when they take on student loans, and “Get on Your Feet” does not negate that.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

What the bill offers is assistance while new graduates start their careers in the state of Colorado. Students are required to enroll in an income-based repayment program, which vastly reduces the cost to the state.

Not only is this cost-efficient and effective, but it is a huge success because it lowers default rates on student loans. As student loans continue to grow, and more students struggle to make payments, Colorado’s economic growth is stunted.

“Get on Your Feet” will additionally help Coloradans who live in rural areas, where student loan delinquency is much higher.

The highest student debt burden in the state is found in Arlington, located on the eastern plains. Second place is held at a tie, between Crestone in the San Luis Valley and Placerville on the Western Slope.

This bill is not intended to be a “fix all” piece of legislation. “Get on Your Feet” is in direct response to the student debt crisis, and will be read in committee on Feb. 13. We want to retain top talent in our state, especially in our rural communities.

To do this, Colorado must invest in affordability and innovation for our higher education system. This is only the first step, and we are pleased to work with Gov. Jared Polis to introduce SB20-004 to make this investment in Colorado.


Steve Fenberg represents Colorado Senate District 18 and serves as the Senate majority leader in the Colorado Legislature. Leslie Herod represents Colorado House District 8. Julie McCluskie represents Colorado House District 61.


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