Higher Education Student Success legislation (HB 21-1220) authorizes federal American Rescue Plan dollars to reengage students
The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption to the lives of students and their families, the operations of the state’s colleges and universities, workforce, and economy. HB21-1330, signed by the Governor on June 29, 2021, authorizes federal American Rescue Plan dollars for students, postsecondary institutions, and other entities that fit into the postsecondary pipeline, with a focus on re-engaging students to earn the degrees they started to improve their earning power. The bill implements student success strategies across the state and charges the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) with reimagining the role of postsecondary institutions in a post-pandemic world to build economic resiliency and strengthen the state’s workforce.
For more information on the bill and implementation, please contact Chloe Figg at Chloe.Figg@dhe.state.co.us.
This page will be updated every Friday with new information. Last update 1/3/2022
- COSI Fund My Future
About the section:
Colorado ranks 47th in the nation in FAFSA form completion for high school seniors. This means that our state is leaving behind more than $30M in federal grant dollars annually. It has been a long-time goal for the Department to increase federal student aid completion. Section 13 of the bill also creates a task force within the Department to examine how to increase FAFSA and CASFA completion for the state long term. With the passage of HB21-1330, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) received $1.5 million to launch a program focused on increasing the number of students who complete the FAFSA/CASFA before high school graduation.
The Fund My Future grant provides funds to local education providers to implement strategies to increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA/CASFA before high school graduation. The local education provider must require students to complete a student aid application (FAFSA/CASFA) before graduation unless the student is eligible to waive the requirement. By June 2026, the Fund My Future program will distribute $1.5M to increase the completion of student aid applications, with the goal of 52% or 8-10 percentage points above the high schools' current completion rate.
At this time, funds have not been disbursed. The COSI Board will review and vote on the initial proposals received on May 18, 2022.
COSI is continuing to accept proposals through June 13, 2022. Visit the Fund My Future website for program and application details.
- Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force
The Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force released its report to the legislature outlining a range of bold and innovative efforts Colorado can undertake to make the state more affordable and create student success in today’s work environment.
- Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force Report (PDF)
- Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force Report (Flipbook)
- News Release: Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force Releases Recommendations to Make Colorado More Affordable & Help Students (Jan. 6, 2022)
Section 13 of HB21-1330 charges the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) with convening a task force by August 1, 2021, to study and make recommendations on the role and mission of institutions of higher education in the state in providing effective and efficient workforce development.
The task force will submit a report of findings and recommendations to the Commission and to the education committees of the Colorado General Assembly.
At a minimum, the task force is charged to study the following:
All recordings can be accessed at this link.(Please note, only full task force meetings will be recorded. All meetings are open to the public for listening, not participation.)
- CORE Initiative
Section 6 of HB21-1330 creates the Colorado Re-Engaged (CORE) Initiative, which enables four-year institutions across Colorado to award an associate degree to eligible students who have stopped-out from a baccalaureate program. In enacting HB21-1330, the Colorado Legislature recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic forced many students – particularly those from low-income communities – to stop attending the state’s colleges and universities before attaining a bachelor’s degree. These stop-out students have invested a significant amount of time and money to advance their knowledge and skills through higher education, but do not have an academic credential to reflect this investment.
Data gathered by the Colorado Department of Higher Education indicates over 19,000 Coloradoans may be eligible for an associate degree under CORE. By offering qualifying stop-out students an earned associate degree for credits already completed, institutions participating in CORE can:
- Enable degree recipients to obtain higher paying jobs and more secure employment, which will improve economic prospects for these former students and their communities.
- Increase the number of Coloradoans with academic credentials and degrees, which will strengthen the state’s workforce and support the economic recovery of the business community.
- Better position degree recipients to return to higher education to complete a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Actions to Date
- The Department hired Peter Fritz, Director of Student Transitions and Degree Completion Initiatives, to oversee the CORE Initiative and find ways to help more students benefit from Colorado Reverse Transfer - Peter began in late September, 2021.
- The Department convened the CORE Associate Degree Design Working Group to interpret the legislation, identify the specific steps necessary to successfully establish and administer the program state-wide, and develop guidelines and recommendations for participating four-year institutions. The Working Group is comprised of representatives from four-year institutions, two-year colleges, local district colleges, and system offices. The group has met monthly since December 2021.
- The Higher Learning Commission has agreed to allow Colorado institutions seeking authorization to award associate degrees under CORE to 1) use HLC’s new Accelerated Process for Initial Accreditation (which can reduce the time from application to initial accreditation to as little as six months) and 2) submit a “batch application” for all institutions planning to participate in CORE.
- Participating Institutions will need to secure all necessary internal approvals before applying for Initial Accreditation through Higher Learning Commission. This will typically involve a review and vote by the faculty senate and formal approval from the governing board for the institution.
- The HLC Accelerated Process for Initial Accreditation (batch application) will begin in early Fall 2022
- First associate degrees under CORE will be awarded by spring term 2022-23.
- Financial Aid Working Group
The Financial Aid Application Working Group, comprised of nearly 20 experts across the state from secondary and higher education institutions, many working directly with high school students and their families statewide to complete postsecondary plans, met a dozen times to lay out an ambitious goal for the state.
By 2026, 80% of all graduating high school seniors will complete student aid applications.
In the report, the working group puts forward a clear plan for how the state can accomplish this ambitious goal. The strategies are a combination of proven ideas used by the state in previous years, ideas that work in other states, and new ideas to increase student aid applications while keeping in mind the state’s diverse populations and the changing landscape of our communities.Financial Aid Completion Working Group Report
Colorado has one of the lowest FAFSA completion rates in the country. Statewide completion for the 2020-21 FAFSA is currently 42.10%, lagging just behind two previous annual rates of 44.4%. Colorado ranks 47th in the nation in form completion for high school seniors. The low participation rate means that our state is leaving more than $30M federal grant dollars on the table annually, and students are not leveraging state aid, because the FAFSA is the primary mechanism institutions use to determine need and award need-based state financial aid.
This section created a working group, convened by the Department, to recommend measures for increasing the number of high school graduates to complete the student aid applications. The group will consist of thirteen members appointed by the Governor. The group will be convened by the Department before August 15, 2021, with staff help from the Colorado Department of Education. The group will submit a report of its findings and recommendations on increasing financial aid application completions in the state to the General Assembly in January 2022.
Actions to DateAppointments to the working group can be accessed here Recordings
Thursday, January 13, 2022 from 8:00-9:30 pm
Zoom Meeting ID: 853 0923 6026
- COSI Finish What You Started
About the section:
With the passage of HB21-1330, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) received $49 million to expand its Finish What You Started (FWYS) program. The program prioritizes individuals who have experienced economic loss due to the pandemic and undergraduate in-state students who:
- Earned some postsecondary credits from a public/private higher education institution but did not complete a credential before deciding not to enroll for two or more consecutive semesters; or
- Were admitted to a public institution of higher education as a first-time student for the 2019- 2020 or 2020-2021 academic year but did not enroll at any institution for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Participants are provided wraparound student support services and direct financial assistance to support continued persistence and certificate or degree completion.
By June 2026, the COSI Finish What You Started program will distribute $46.55M to facilitate the completion of approximately 9,000 certificates and degrees. For the fiscal year, 2021-2022 $7,804,868 (100% of funds expected this fiscal year) has been distributed to public institutions across the state.