The recent announcement of Deion Sanders as the head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder has brought incredible enthusiasm about what it means for one of our state’s exceptional universities and the talent of students and athletes he will bring.

On top of the immense expertise and many opportunities Coach Prime will add to the CU football program, he has already made a significant impact on another aspect of how the institution operates: the transfer process. The university has recently shared that it will be reevaluating its transfer process to better support not only the many athletes eager to join the community under his leadership, but any student who meets the requirements to transfer to CU.

We applaud CU for going beyond a quick fix that applies only to athletes and committing to pilot these changes for all students. This is an opportunity for CU to help nurture a statewide culture where students receive meaningful credit for high-quality coursework, regardless of where they complete it. CU will attract talented students from the world over by removing barriers to achieving a degree with this move.

Right now, in our country, any student who transfers from one institution to another typically loses almost half the credits they have completed. This has a devastating effect on the success students have worked towards and increases the cost of attaining a degree. The NCAA requires athletes who make use of the transfer portal to stay on track toward their degree; athletes cannot transfer through the portal if they will lose half their credits.

Unfortunately, many schools have created a workaround where athletes meet this requirement by enrolling in a physical education or general education pathway, regardless of their passion or what they were studying before they transferred. Neither pathway provides significant opportunities for career and economic security after graduation.

At the heart of our college and university system comes the promise of high-value credentials that lead to greater economic mobility.

One of us — Ryan — knows this experience better than anyone. My two degrees, one in economics and policy, and the other in political science, from Notre Dame have allowed me to continue my path of success after I retired from the NFL and moved into the next phase of my life.

Unfortunately, too many students never experience economic mobility. Some of my teammates had to relocate due to a family illness, only to start back at the beginning of their academic careers. All the while in these situations, the school benefits from the player performing. Many players feel like those schools are benefitting from their athletic contributions, while maximizing their own revenue.

Athletes are not the only group that moves more freely across institutions; most students complete courses at multiple schools, and many have industry-relevant training that should apply to their academic program. Regardless of the health, economic, or mental health needs of a student, transferring can set them back — by years in many cases.

CU, unlike many other schools, has always been committed to ensuring the athlete it accepts stays on a high-quality pathway. However, until now, they have not addressed how challenging it is for athletes, or any students, to receive credit for coursework completed at other institutions, even though all Division I colleges go through a similarly rigorous accreditation process to ensure academic quality. 

☀ MORE IN OPINION

As CU reimagines its transfer process, to ensure all students win it should ensure the credits they are accepting go toward degrees, and not just electives. It should consider expanding this policy to relevant business and engineering credits (currently it is limited to arts and science credits). And it should make this a permanent change. CU can help lead the way in being more inclusive of the coursework it honors and reducing lost credits for all students.

As for the other one of us — Scott — my time at CU studying Business Administration cemented my deep belief in the power of an excellent education to support all learners in entering the workforce prepared for their next chapter. Both of us believe it is essential that we advocate for the next generation of students to receive the same support and advocacy we received in both of our educational experiences.

Our postsecondary system needs to put our state’s students on the path to career success while cultivating a pipeline of creativity and workers for in-demand jobs across the state. We look forward to the impact Coach Prime’s leadership will have on his team of students, the students enrolling at CU from around the globe, and our community.


Ryan Harris, of Westminster, is a board member of Economic Literacy Colorado, and was a 10-year veteran of the NFL, where he played for the Denver Broncos.


Scott Laband, of Morrison, is president of Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings together leaders from business, education, and government to advance education and workforce development.

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Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris, of Westminster, is a board member of Economic Literacy Colorado, and was 10-year veteran of the NFL, where he played for the Denver Broncos.

Scott Laband

Scott Laband, of Morrison, is president of Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings together leaders from business, education, and government to advance education and workforce development.