This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Colorado community colleges will provide more aid and resources for their older students, better track their college success, and create degree programs leading to well-paying jobs, thanks to joining a national network this month.
The REACH Collaborative, which Colorado joined on Friday, intends to improve college for older students nationwide including in the Colorado Community College System.
The Lumina Foundation funded the collaborative, which stands for Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Higher Education, and which will provide $975,000 over two years for Colorado to focus on older Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
Colorado will tap those funds to provide grants to schools to try to increase graduation rates of older students by about two percentage points. The state doesn’t currently track the graduation rate of older students, but leaders have a plan to begin documenting the number. (Chalkbeat is philanthropically supported by The Lumina Foundation.)
Landon Pirius, the college system’s academic and student affairs vice chancellor, said the pandemic exposed the importance of college-level training. Workers with college degrees tended not to lose their jobs as much as did workers without a degree.
Boosting the success of older students will help the economy of their communities, Pirius said.
About 55% of state residents has a college degree or certificate. The state aims to increase that portion to two-thirds of adults. Pirius said it won’t meet that goal “if we don’t shift our focus and strengthen our offerings and change how we do things for adults.”