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Colorado legislature answers call to address workforce shortages and affordability

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DENVER – May 13, 2022: During the 2022 legislative session, the General Assembly passed several bills aimed at ensuring Colorado students have access to a wide variety of quality, affordable, postsecondary education options while also addressing the need to fill in-demand jobs.

The department succeeded in passing all its legislative priorities including but not limited to:

  • Improving Higher Education for Students with a Disability (HB22-1255) charges CDHE with creating a task force to make recommendations to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the General Assembly and institutions of higher education on how to best serve postsecondary students with disabilities.
  • Higher Education Support for Foster Youth (SB22-008) provides free cost of attendance for Colorado resident students who have been in foster care. The bill requires each institution of higher education to have a single point of contact, or navigator, to help these students access and complete their postsecondary education. The bill also invests in a new office in the Department to work directly with foster youth, in partnership with the Department of Human Services, to ensure students are accessing all federal benefits available to them.
  • Economic Mobility Program (SB22-182), allows CDHE to cover the statewide licensing costs of Single Stop. Having this system in place allows a campus to better connect eligible students to the wide array of public benefit programs, further leveraging federal dollars.

"Thank you to everyone who made this a successful legislative session for Colorado students and families. Let's build on this momentum and ensure every Coloradan has access to high-quality, affordable postsecondary options," said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of CDHE. "There has never been a better time to upskill, reskill or learn new skills. Colorado is ready to invest in your education and training."

Several pieces of legislation built on laws put into place last year, specifically HB 21-1330 which created a statewide task force and resulting report that outlined 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. From that legislation, three bills passed, including:

  • Improving Students' Postsecondary Options (HB22-1366) provides federal dollars to both the Colorado Department of Education and CDHE to bolster the postsecondary and workforce readiness of Colorado students by creating greater awareness, participation, and understanding of cost and ways to pay for industry training and higher education, including increasing the completion rates of federal and state financial aid forms (FAFSA/CAFSA), and making postsecondary options more accessible and affordable. This bill supports recommendations from the Financial Aid Working Group report, as convened by the Department.
  • Regional Collaborative Grants (HB22-1350) establishes the regional talent development initiative grant program in the Office of Economic Development to fund talent development initiatives across the state that meet regional labor market needs and specified grant program goals. This includes initiatives that meet workforce development needs in regions as they recover from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Opportunities for Credential Attainment (SB22-192) –Tasks CDHE, in consultation with the state institutions of higher education, to develop and implement a process that encourages institutions to identify incremental achievements on the path to degree completion, organize stackable credentials, and identify how credentials may become stacked into stackable credential pathways.
  • Postsecondary Student Success Data System (HB22-1349) requires the department to create and maintain a statewide student success data system that includes institution-specific interfaces and a public interface. The data system will include student success information aligned with student success measures. It also directs the department to provide the General Assembly with reports on the opportunities and barriers in deploying a statewide longitudinal data system.

Two other key bills address the needs of healthcare workers (in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment) and teachers and provide $113 million in federal aid.

  • Programs To Support Health-care Workforce (SB 22-226):
    • Health Care Workforce Resilience and Retention Program ($2M) provides technical assistance and grants to community partners to develop programs, services, and best practices, and for planning, research, and evaluation related to resilience and retention of health care workers.
    • Practice-Based Health Education Grant Program ($20M) increases clinical, practice-based training opportunities for students enrolled in a health care profession, degree or license program.
    • School Nurse Grant Program ($3M) removes current limits on the amount of grants and the length of grant awards made from this existing School Nurse Grant Program.
    • Reengagement initiative ($10M) supports the recruitment and re-engagement of health care workers with current or expired licenses and staffing.
    • In-Demand Short-Term Health Care Credentials Program ($26M) directs money to community colleges, area technical colleges, district colleges and community nonprofits that deliver a program to support the expansion and availability of in-demand health care professionals in direct collaboration with the partners listed here.
  • Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation (HB 22-1220) creates two educator preparation stipend programs ($42M) and a temporary educator loan forgiveness program ($10M) at CDHE; expands options for assessing the professional competency of prospective educators; and allows CDE to offer temporary eligibility authorization to additional types of educators.