Educational opportunity and our legislative priorities
We at the Bell still believe in the American Dream. For most of us, Colorado offers many opportunities to succeed, and education is the primary means we use to help us take advantage of those opportunities
That is why we spend a lot of our time and effort promoting policies to help more Coloradans obtain the education they need – starting with toddlers in pre-school and extending through working adults. One of our state's top education goals is to prepare Coloradans so they can compete and prosper in the global economy – an economy that increasingly requires higher levels of skill and training in order to succeed
With that in mind, we call your attention to several bills that will be considered during the current legislative session – two of which we will testify for next week. Skills for Jobs and Credit for Prior Learning in Higher Education are aimed at helping Coloradans obtain the training and skills necessary to get jobs, strengthen our workforce and expand our economy.
Skills for Jobs (HB12-1061; Rep. Daniel Kagan) directs the Departments of Labor and Employment and Higher Education and other entities to share data about the types of jobs in demand, the skills needed by employers and the wide range of degrees, certificates and other credentials awarded by Colorado's colleges, universities, occupational schools and workforce-training programs. Sharing this data will help ensure we are producing workers with the skills employers need and that workers better understand the types of skills employers are looking for now and in the future.
Credit for Prior Learning in Higher Education (HB12-1072; Reps. Tom Massey and Rhonda Fields, Sens. Bob Bacon and Keith King) directs the Commission on Higher Education to work with the state's public colleges and universities to develop criteria for granting students academic credit for knowledge and skills they obtained through prior work experience, military service or community involvement. These criteria will include a process for assessing the student's learning and the amount of credits to be awarded. Granting credit for things students already know saves them time and money and increases the likelihood they will complete a degree, certificate or credential.
Another bill up next week would provide affordable tuition for qualified undocumented students. It will create a standard-rate category for tuition (SB12-15; Sens. Angela Giron and Michael Johnston) and give public colleges and universities the option of offering this rate to students. The standard rate would be more than what in-state students pay but less than out-of-state tuition. Students paying this rate would not receive the college opportunity stipend or need-based aid that is available to in-state students. This rate will allow undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools and meet other criteria to continue their education at rates they can afford.
Other bills likely to be heard this session include one to increase the literacy skills of Colorado's third-graders. Reading in third grade is critical to students' future academic success. Before third-grade, students "learn to read" and after third grade they "read to learn."
Another bill (SB12-45; Sens. Evie Hudak and Keith King, Reps. Tom Massey and Rhonda Fields) will allow students who started in a public two-year college to be awarded a two-year degree while they pursue a four-year degree. This will ensure students obtain a degree that reflects the work they completed even if they end up not finishing the requirements for a four-year degree. Having a two-year degree increases the likelihood students can find a better-paying job than if they had no degree to show for their efforts.