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Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado
Despite modest gains over the last decade, the University of Colorado Boulder still ranks near the bottom of the list of flagship public universities in enrollment of low-income students.
The percentage of Pell Grant recipients at the university moved from 12% in 2008 to 16% a decade later, ranking Boulder as fifth-lowest among all flagships in the country, according to an analysis by Open Campus, a nonprofit news organization and a Chalkbeat partner.
In a state where two out of five public school students are considered low-income, CU Boulder’s record raises questions about whether it is fulfilling its mission to educate Coloradans from all backgrounds, not just the wealthiest students.
MORE: Colorado’s universities are catering to out-of-state students. Is their public mission at risk?
It’s problematic that Colorado’s top public institution doesn’t represent the state’s native-born population, said Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center, which focuses on economic mobility in Colorado. The disparity in access, he said, could be hindering economic opportunities of Colorado’s low-income residents.
“Colorado is quickly becoming a playground for well-educated folks from out of state and becoming a place that’s harder and harder to live for the people who were born and raised here,” Wasserman said.
CU officials point to efforts to boost enrollment of Pell-eligible students but acknowledge more work must be done. At the same time, other public universities, such as the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, have grown their numbers significantly, providing possible lessons.
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