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Chasing higher education progress in Colorado

Students study and socialize inside the University Center at the University of Northern Colorado campus in Greeley on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

This item appeared in Beyond High School, a Chalkbeat newsletter by Jason Gonzales about college-going in Colorado. Sign up for your own copy here.


It’s the August edition of Beyond High School, and somehow it’s the end of summer break.

Although the return to school’s very much on my mind, I find my reporting looking ahead.

Over the last month, I’ve started to dig into the last decade of Colorado’s higher education outcomes as part of the Chasing Progress series. The project focuses on the socioeconomic health of Coloradans from 2010 to 2020.

The past decade ended with large equity gaps. From 2010 to 2020, the state struggled to get portions of the state’s population through college— for example, Latino residents ages 25 and older finish college at a rate that’s 31 percentage points below white residents.

But my questions to experts, educators, and students have centered less on the past. Instead, my questions are about how we move forward from a decade of slow progress and a pandemic that’s disrupted almost every facet of higher education in Colorado and across the country.

In my monthly reading list, you’ll see an excellent article from The Hechinger Report by my friend Jon Marcus on why fewer high school students are enrolling at colleges and universities. I’ll save most of details for the read, but I especially like this:

“Many observers have suggested three principal explanations for the falloff: the COVID-19 pandemic, a dip in the number of Americans under 18, and a strong labor market sucking young people straight into the workforce.”

With these conditions, I’ve tried to ask as many people as possible how Colorado helps more people secure college degrees and the economic opportunities that come with it.

We’re in a difficult moment. And I understand how complicated it will be to tell this story.

I often end these newsletters requesting you reach out. But I really do need you all to help answer these questions:

How do we help people who started college and dropped out get back in the door and across the finish line? And how do we make college attractive to high school students who are excited just to earn $20 an hour right now?

Reach me on Twitter at @ByJasonGonzales or via email at jgonzales@chalkbeat.org.

Jason Gonzales covers higher education for Chalkbeat Colorado, in partnership with Open Campus.

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