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.

I hope you had a great holiday season! I’m excited for what 2023 will bring and the stories I will get to tell.

Today, we published a story on the Pell Grant student enrollment at the Colorado School of Mines. In some ways, it is similar to a story we published in 2020 about the low rates of Pell students, or those from low-income backgrounds, at the University of Colorado Boulder.

While the stories focused on two schools, there’s plenty to say about Colorado’s bigger picture of equal access to university opportunities.

Colorado ranks near the bottom in getting students to fill out federal aid applications. The number of students going to college has also dropped since the start of the pandemic. Colorado students face increasing tuition and also often lack proper advising that tells them exactly what college will cost them. The Mines story also mentions a big issue: academic preparedness among low-income students.

Those issues together have led to fewer low-income students going to college. Those who do go to college graduate at lower rates.

It’s a bleak picture.

But I keep in mind the success stories of students like Sabastian Ortega, who is featured in the Mines story. And I wonder about how we can build on the success of Ortega and others like him to inform how we tackle not just what happens at colleges and universities, but also the experience of low-income communities across the state.

Let us know your ideas, big or small, to address the challenges Pell students face.

Jason Gonzales is a reporter covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at jgonzales@chalkbeat.org.

Higher education reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado in partnership with Open Campus.