Trinidad State Junior College's Berg Administration Building. The school opened in 1925 was the first Junior College in Colorado. It has an enrollment of just over 1,900 full- and part-time students (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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Colorado lawmakers and college officials hope a name change will help reverse years of sharply declining enrollment at two rural campuses, and in turn, also help support the towns they serve.

The change, requiring legislation, would remove the “junior” from Otero and Trinidad State junior colleges. The bill would leave Northeastern Junior College as the last remaining higher education institution bearing the name in the state — and one of the few left in the country. Its enrollment has declined 48% in a decade, but community backlash over the proposed name change caused legislators to exclude the college from the bill.

While a simple fix, officials hope the removal of “junior” will have a big impact when it comes to marketing the two schools to prospective students.

College officials at the schools for years have complained that the antiquated term has hampered recruiting and given potential students an erroneous impression of being less than a full-fledged college.

Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia said the coronavirus pandemic has placed the state’s junior colleges at increased risk. Although the state will continue to supplement the school budgets to counteract enrollment declines, Garcia said they need to thrive as important parts of the economic ecosystem of the small towns where they reside.

The name change represents only one part of a greater effort to make the schools successful, he said. The state has begun narrowing the subjects they offer to those that have the most potential to lead to good jobs, in areas such as nursing, energy, and information technology.

“This is just one part of the bigger process that we know we have to do,” Garcia said.