Colorado has one of the highest postsecondary attainment rates, but also one of the most significant gaps between the state's White population and students of color. Faced with a strained state budget, and rising higher education costs, postsecondary education is unattainable for many Colorado students, especially our fastest growing and most underserved population, students of color. To help address the issues of access and affordability, we asked BOLD questions, what if we could leverage our budget, create a public-private partnership, and make limited resources go further? In 2014 Colorado took BOLD steps and invested in its students by creating the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative or "COSI" as we affectionally call it.
The project addresses the challenge of postsecondary attainment in two ways: accessibility and affordability. To increase accessibility, COSI funds programs through our Community Partnership Program (CPP) that will help prepare students for postsecondary education, as well as support them through completion. To increase affordability, the Matching Student Scholarship (MSS) provides tuition support via matching funds for scholarships, so that tuition costs are not a barrier to entry and student loan debt is mitigated.
Since its inception, the program has made significant progress. In four years, we have leveraged $34 million in state and community-raised dollars to power scholarship aid and support services for more than 17,000 students each year. While our footprint is growing, so is our success. Our internal data show most COSI students enrolled in a CPP program—87 percent—persist in their education path, 15 percentage points higher than peers of similar demographic groups. Students who receive COSI scholarships perform even better: 89 percent continue in their second and third years, outpacing their non-COSI counterparts by 25 percentage points.
Our bold risk-taking has allowed us to scale quickly and reflect on our learnings to restructure and improve program efficiency as we go. Moreover, these experiences have allowed our staff to think deeply about our scope and how we can support grantees to maximize student outcomes. Thanks to ongoing rigorous analysis, we are poised for robust, scalable growth, aligning with Colorado Department of Higher Education goals set out by the Master Plan, Colorado Rises, to increase credential completion, erase equity gaps, improve student success and invest in affordability and innovation.
Learn more about how your organization or college can partner with COSI. Please note COSI does not directly award funding to students.