2023 Strategic Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
Instruction in the humanities and a liberal arts education often enable learners to develop critical knowledge and durable skills that are of great value and importance. Learners pursuing these fields of study have the same desire as their peers – to leverage their postsecondary education to improve their career opportunities and economic mobility. It is important to measure how well we are delivering on that objective and adjust program design and industry alignment when the benefits fail to exceed the costs.
Most academic programs currently enable a positive ROI. And most learners are already aware that certain professions pay less than others. If a program does not enable a positive ROI, it allows institutions and policymakers to focus time and resources to address either program design, implementation, and/or cost to make these socially worthy fields of study accessible to a wider diversity of learners. We shouldn't be asking students to be worse off economically for pursuing these important fields of study than if they had not pursued any postsecondary education.
The Commission recommends that institutions and policymakers prioritize their efforts to focus first on critical fields that directly impact the well-being of our state.
The Commission greatly values the benefits of postsecondary education that are not reflected in an economic measure. Unfortunately, fewer than one in three Colorado high school graduates are experiencing postsecondary success and are thus able to enjoy these benefits, leaving far too many Colorado learners behind. Improving the student value proposition in cases where incremental earnings do not currently exceed the cost of attendance is necessary to enable more students to have the opportunity to enjoy the diverse benefits of a postsecondary education.
The Commission does not view learner value, graduation rates, and credential attainment as a trade-off. Rather, learner value takes into consideration both graduation rates and attainment, and it includes a broader scope of value. By focusing on value, we are providing an actionable roadmap to improve the output of our postsecondary ecosystem in a way that aligns with the objectives of those who pay for it: learners and other taxpayers.
While the value each individual learner enjoys from postsecondary education will be unique to that individual, the focus of this work is on the value different postsecondary pathways create for broad groups of learners. As such, the data should reflect the diversity of resulting career journeys.
No. The total cost of attendance is typically significantly lower for part-time students because they are able to earn an income while pursuing a postsecondary education, thus reducing their foregone wages. When institutions successfully serve part-time students in ways that enable balancing education and work (flexible/nontraditional class schedules, prior learning assessment, and well-aligned work-based learning opportunities, for instance), it is more likely that incremental earnings will exceed the lower cost of attendance incurred by these students. Further, it provides an opportunity to better recognize the value of non-degree credentials that part-time students can benefit from, while possibly working toward a degree.
The Commission values a diversity of educational pathways and recognizes that in order to deliver against student objectives and enable equitable access to postsecondary education, all pathways need to unlock incremental earnings that exceed the cost of attendance.
The fact that our postsecondary ecosystem is not yet meeting the needs of 535% of Colorado learners is exactly why we need to focus on learner value, making postsecondary success accessible to the diverse population of our state. The Commission believes strongly that this focus on learner value is the best way to advance equity for Colorado’s learners.
While the Commission and the broader Colorado postsecondary ecosystem do not have the ability to directly address historical inequities in compensation, a focus on value and the career outcomes of postsecondary participants, combined with disaggregation of this data, will enable clear measurement of progress toward addressing these inequities. Further, a focus on ensuring that a positive return on investment is available to all postsecondary learners will make postsecondary education accessible to more Coloradans from historically underrepresented backgrounds.