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Opinion: Stimulus funds should support Colorado students in need at both public and private colleges

It is shortsighted to think that the private higher-education institutions we lead do not serve the same student demographics as our public counterparts.

Students stroll toward Ritchie Center on the University of Denver campus in a 2011 photo. (Mark Harden, The Colorado Sun)

Our colleagues in Colorado public higher education have affirmed a call for bold action to use monies from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) to support all students in need across Colorado no matter which college or university in our state that they choose to attend.  

As leaders of private Colorado higher-education institutions, we unequivocally echo this call.

Mike Edmonds, Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, Jeremy Haefner

Because of the pandemic, many would-be students have postponed or dismissed the idea of attending college. Colorado would substantially benefit from passing legislation that invests ARP monies in re-igniting student desires to attend college and recruiting individuals who, because of COVID-19, have put aside the idea of higher education. 

We call upon Colorado legislators to distribute ARP funds to all Colorado colleges to retain and graduate low-income, underrepresented minority and first-generation college students and we ask that the distributions follow the students. 

These investments will have a long-lasting impact — especially for populations of students and families who, due to an absence of resources, are eliminated from successfully participating in the higher-education experience. 

Eliminating opportunity simply because of diluted resources is contrary to a Colorado that prioritizes opportunity, security, diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Colorado is fortunate to have a diverse collection of higher-education institutions that uniquely serve a wide variety of prospective and current students. Along with our public partners, private institutions play a vital role in the spectrum of granting education experiences that ultimately bolster the strength and health of Colorado’s workforce, economy, and public good.   

It is shortsighted to think our private institutions do not serve the same student demographics as our public counterparts. We stand firmly with public institutions in the belief that Colorado should support all students in need regardless of the school of their choice. 

All Colorado higher-education institutions — private and public — have been deeply impacted by the unanticipated effects of COVID-19. 

Significantly, students in need at both private and public institutions, and who have barriers to college education that existed prior to the pandemic, desire to earn a degree, experience lives of purpose, and contribute to Colorado’s wellbeing. 

These desires alone serve as a strong reason for Colorado to act with urgency to pass legislation to ensure that America Rescue Plan funds support all students in need. 

Mike Edmonds is the acting co-president of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., is the president of Regis University in Denver. Jeremy Haefner is the chancellor of the University of Denver.

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