Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative awards $15 million for support services aimed at workers displaced by COVID-19

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DENVER (Sept. 27, 2021) — The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), a program within the Colorado Department of Higher Education, has awarded $15 million to 21 providers across the state for a program aimed at getting Coloradans back to work after the pandemic. The Back to Work  Grant requires providers to prioritize workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide participants with wraparound and financial support to access and complete their credential or degree within the grant term.

The Colorado Recovery Plan, expanded COSI's Displaced Worker Grant, initially deployed in Spring 2020. In addition, Ready to Rise, a campaign funded by HB 21-1264, aims to raise awareness of the opportunities available to individuals through the Colorado Recovery Plan and the $147 million investment through the legislation and other bills focused on addressing the economic impacts of the pandemic through connecting individuals to work, education, and training.

"I'm thrilled to see this investment in Colorado's workforce," said Governor Jared Polis. "By providing training and education for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we can power the Colorado comeback while developing individuals in the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.”

This grant supports Coloradans displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, including those laid off or furloughed, experienced decreased earnings, had job offers rescinded, or could not enter the workforce because of adverse economic conditions. These workers have an incentive to reskill, upskill, or complete industry-recognized credentials to improve economic prospects for themselves and their communities.

"We were excited to work alongside the Governor's office and State Legislature to make this important investment a reality," said Shelley Banker, managing director of COSI. "The COSI Back to Work Grant allows Colorado to build back stronger by providing a new opportunity for more than 4,000 Coloradans impacted by the pandemic, helping them recover."

The Displaced Workers Grant (SB21-232) allocated  $15 million for this award cycle. Programs that were already contracted from the 2020 displaced workers grant programs will receive a boost of $4.2 million. More than $10 million will be used to expand and build new programs. Another $775,000 will provide resources to build and scale high-impact programs. Funding supports a specific number of completions over the term.

"Early in the COVID‐19 pandemic, the COSI board quickly deployed a new model to get displaced workers back to work. Our initial investment of six programs highlighted the need and potential return on investment that was possible with the expanded funds," said Dr. Cynthia Armendariz, COSI's senior program director and operations officer. “With the new funds, each program will receive an annual investment for three years to cover the cost of student support services and provide participants financial support. Each grant is expected to complete a set number of degrees or credentials by the end of the grant term. ”

Expansion of Student and Financial Support Program Awards:

  • Arapahoe Community College $700,000
  • Colorado Mesa University $700,000
  • Community College of Aurora $700,000
  • Community College of Denver $700,000
  • Colorado Mountain College $700,000
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver 700,000

New Student and Financial Support Program Awards:

  • Adams State University $850,000
  • Colorado State University Pueblo $850,000
  • Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance $850,000
  • Emily Griffith Foundation $850,000
  • Empowering Communities Globally $425,000
  • Front Range Community College $850,000
  • Lamar Community College Foundation $425,000
  • Pickens Technical College $850,000
  • Pikes Peak Community College Foundation $850,000
  • Pikes Peak United Way $425,000
  • Pueblo Community College $850,000
  • Regents of the University of Colorado Boulder $850,000
  • University of Northern Colorado Foundation $850,000
  • Western Colorado University $250,000

Infrastructure Awards:

  • Foundation for Colorado Community Colleges $348,301.50
  • Pikes Peak United Way $37,933.00
  • Pueblo Community College $388,765.50

About the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative
The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) was created to increase the attainment of postsecondary credentials and degrees for underserved students. The project addresses this challenge in two ways: accessibility and affordability. To increase accessibility, COSI funds programs that will help prepare students for postsecondary education, as well as support them through completion. To increase affordability, COSI provides matching funds for community scholarships.