Signed into law on June 6, 2014, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) was created to address the Colorado Paradox, the state’s high proportion of adults with college degrees is due to credentialed migrants moving in instead of reflecting an educated homegrown workforce. COSI would expand the use of best practices throughout the state through a funding model that received bi-partisan approval. By leveraging state funds to generate local giving, the program grows community efforts and engages private donors to increase available scholarships well beyond the investment from the state. Knowing that scholarships must be paired with student supports to impact completion rates, the program’s Matching Student Scholarship (MSS) component complements the Community Partner Program (CPP) grants. By reaching students from a range of socio-economic classes (from 0-250 percent Pell-eligible) underserved students, for whom college seems out-of-reach, are able to not only afford a degree but also access the support they need to persist and graduate.
In the first five years, COSI has already awarded $47 million of state funds, leveraged $28 million in additional local and private dollars, and has served more than 75,000 students in 61/64 Colorado counties. Internal studies using the latest available data (2018-2019) show most COSI students enrolled in the CPP program—85 percent—persist in their education path, 19 percentage points higher than peers of similar demographic groups. Students who receive COSI scholarships perform even better: 89 percent continue on in their second year, outpacing their non-COSI counterparts by 17 percentage points. When looking at students receiving both scholarship and support services, persistence numbers jump to 94%.
For an in-depth walkthrough of the program history and policies, check out the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Policy Guidebook!
The success of the state economy will depend on a credentialed workforce with post-high school training and education. We envision an innovative program that leverages public and private investment to make post-high school education available to more Colorado students who are empowered to graduate with a degree or certificate. Those students will be positioned to earn a livable wage, graduate with less debt, and positively contribute to the growth of their state’s economy.
The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative seeks to couple tuition assistance and student supports to ensure that every Colorado student has affordable access to postsecondary opportunities and can complete a degree or certificate necessary to enter their desired position in Colorado’s workforce. By leveraging a $35 million investment from the State of Colorado in 2014, we will build a state-wide network demonstrating promising and proven practices that address issues of affordability and access. Demonstrated success will encourage annual contributions from the General Assembly and community partners to fund scholarships in future years.
- Statute and Rules
- Strategic Plans
COSI's initial strategic plan spanned through the first five years of the program and set initial goals and benchmarks around postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion based on Coloradans' geographic spread and income. After six years of programming and redesigns to both grant programs, an update is needed to assess the current direction and priorities, consider environmental factors and present trends and needs in the State, and align with Gov. Polis' direction and the CCHE Strategic Plan goals.
In the first six years, COSI has made a significant impact in Colorado. To date, $66.5 million in state funds have leveraged $35 million in private philanthropic funds. COSI partners have served approximately 100,000 students across its programs.
The new strategic plan sets the direction for COSI staff to execute programming and provide leadership to grantees to serve more Coloradans intentionally and in line with Gov. Polis' Bold 4 and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) Strategic Plan. Through the strategic plan, COSI continues to focus on:
- Enrollment, persistence, and completion through investments in Community Partner Program (CPP) grants and Matching Student Scholarship (MSS) grants.
- Supporting and building a community and network of support via the COSI Technical Assistance team.
- A commitment to program sustainability and structure, which includes ongoing budget and legislative requests to the General Assembly and the exploration and expansion of COSI's financial public-private partnership.
- Outcome Reports