In a bid to encourage students to consider vocational education, Colorado Mesa University is slashing tuition
in those programs by almost 40 percent.
Colorado Mesa decided to buck this tradition with its new tuition cut.
“What we’ve found is that a flat, university-level tuition rate for career and technical credentials has become a barrier for students and their families,”
says John Marshall
, the university’s president. “At the same time, local employers are in desperate need of skilled workers to fill jobs.”
The regional public university is based in Grand Junction and has three locations in western Colorado, enrolling roughly 10K students.
It’s also one of about 400 dual-mission institutions in the U.S. These colleges combine community colleges with four-year universities,
offering technical certificates, applied programs, and liberal arts degrees. It’s a promising model
, particularly in a fast-changing economy
Colorado Mesa’s community college division—Western Colorado Community College—is located a few miles away from the university’s main campus. It has been expanding career and technical offerings during the last five years, adding fire science, veterinary technology, pharmacy technician, aviation, viticulture, surveying, and gerontology.
Enrollment is up at Western Colorado Community College, too, with a nearly 10 percent increase in credit hours taken since last spring. The most popular programs are manufacturing technology, emergency medical technician, and nurse aide.
Yet Marshall says state disinvestment has driven up
tuition rates to $321 per credit hour, which is out of reach for many students who live in the state’s Grand Valley.
This week the university’s Board of Trustees voted to cut tuition rates across vocational programs to $197 per credit—reducing annual tuition and fees from $9,644 for Colorado residents who take 15 credits per semester to roughly $5,900 per year.
That rate is in line with what two-year colleges in the state charge.
CMU anticipates that the tuition cut will make career education more attractive to its students, more than half of whom are the first in their family to attend college.
, Colorado’s higher ed–wonk governor, a Democrat, spoke at CMU’s rollout event. He hopes other colleges will follow the university’s move to reduce tuition, particularly for in-demand fields.
“It will give more Coloradoans the skills they need for a good career,” Polis said.
The Association for Career and Technical Education was not aware of other colleges that charge less for vocational programs. Should they? And please send me examples if you know colleges that do.