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A Conversation With Joe Garcia, Colorado's Soon To Be Departing Lt. Gov.

Bente Birkeland

After five years on the job, Colorado's Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced that he is stepping down from the position and as head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Garcia will leave his dual-role to helm a higher education policy group for the western U.S., the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Garcia is not stepping down immediately; he is expected to join the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education before July 1, 2016. Garcia said it was a difficult decision, but that what he's "really loved is working on higher education issues." His new position will be working across the West, not just in Colorado.

"Joe will be nearly impossible to replace," said Gov. John Hickenlooper in a statement. "He has been an exceptional lieutenant governor and in leading education efforts for Colorado. He has given five years selflessly to the success of this state and the future education of our children. We are grateful and wish him continued success."

Interview Highlights With Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

On Whether He Would Make A Future Gubernatorial Bid (as has long been rumored inside the state capitol)

"This would make it extremely unlikely, much less likely than if I stayed. I've always seen myself more as an educator than a politician."

On The Biggest Challenges Facing Higher Education

"It goes well beyond the funding challenges. Too many students are graduating from high school not being college ready so they don't enroll. Too many graduate and are college ready but don't have the resources to go to college. Too many are bound by work or family by a particular place so they can't go to an institution."

On The Upcoming Legislative Session And What He'd Like To See Lawmakers Pass

"We need to continue to address the funding challenge. Right now we're facing a $20 million cut in our budget coming up. We have to address this hospital provider fee issue or we're going to continue to see cuts to K-12 and higher education, at a time when our economy is booming. It doesn't make any sense." 

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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