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News brief with Chalkbeat: Out-of-state students and workforce training on legislature's docket

First lady Jill Biden sits between Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Gov. Jared Polis next to a pillar at the Colorado Capitol.
Jason Gonzalez
Chalkbeat Colorado
First lady Jill Biden (middle) sits with Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, and Gov. Jared Polis at the Colorado Capitol on Monday, April 3, 2023. The first lady visited Colorado to talk about the state’s investments in workforce training.

This week, we begin a series of conversations with our colleagues at Chalkbeat Colorado to learn more about the education stories they're following in the state.

For our first conversation, Chalkbeat Reporter Jason Gonzales joins us to discuss bills currently in the state legislature concerning public university admissions for out-of-statestudents and programs to help more Coloradans enter high-demand job fields.

Colorado universities could soon be able to admit more out-of-state students. SB96 proposes changes to the reporting of in-state student numbers, particularly for those students receiving merit-based financial aid.

“Out-of-state students bring in more tuition—higher tuition, and that's become more crucial for schools as there's been less state investment," Gonzales told KUNC. "But of course, we do have a mission to educate Colorado students.”

Under the proposed legislation, 45% of students enrolled in the freshman class could be from out-of-state, but the rest would have to be from Colorado, Gonzales said.

Schools like the University of Colorado Boulder are currently allowed to admit two out-of-state students for every one in-state student who participates in the Colorado Scholars Program. Under this metric, 8% of in-state students can be double-counted due to their status as merit aid students. If the new legislation passes, however, the amount of double-counted students would increase to encompass 15% of all in-state students.

“That could mean as the state gives—or as schools give—more merit aid, they can then just enroll more out-of-state students,” Gonzales said.

In other news, free education to prepare Coloradans for high-demand job fields is also on the legislature's agenda in the form of two new bills.

The first bill expands on an existing state education program called Care Forward originally created with federal pandemic relief money. Those initial funds helped launch a free health care training program at community colleges, technical schools and some high schools. The program has graduated about 1,000 students from the community college system.

Gonzales said the new legislation could help that program reach even more Coloradans.

“(The state is) expanding that program to offer free education—mostly at the community colleges again—in firefighting, policing, elementary education, construction, manufacturing, and a few others," Gonzales said. "It's a big expansion—about $40 million—and they're hoping that program would serve about 20,000 Coloradans.”

If the bill passes, the program would receive funding to expand the program for the next two years.

Another bipartisan measure also backed by Gov. Jared Polis would award scholarships to 15,000 Colorado college students from the class of 2024.

“They’ll be able to use that to get training in tough-to-fill jobs,” Gonzales said.

On her visit to Colorado earlier this week, First Lady Jill Biden gave state lawmakers a pat on the back for the legislation to support career education, calling the state a model for workforce training.

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.
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