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Getting more minority, low-income students into STEM fields; connecting Coloradans with long-term mental health care

Children sit in a classroom, facing the front where the teacher stands.
Kenny Eliason

Colorado high school students who lives in a middle- to high-income household are most likely going on to college. A recent report from the state’s Department of Education shows 67% of those students enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. But those numbers are much lower for low-income students and students of color.

Last year, state lawmakers took several steps toward making access to higher education more equitable. Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills – one banning the use of so-called “legacy admissions” by public colleges and universities, making Colorado the first state to do away with that practice. He also signed a bill to remove a requirement that public colleges consider SAT or ACT scores for freshmen, instead having them rely on high school performance indicators such as grade point average, class rank and the overall academic rigor of a student’s course work. The new law still allows students to submit those test scores if they wish.

Nearly a year after those bills were signed into law, it’s not clear yet what the impact will be. Dr. Pius Kamau believes much more needs to be done to encourage and support children from underrepresented groups in the pursuit of higher education – especially in STEM fields. Dr. Kamau was born and raised in Kenya and spent three decades as a surgeon in Colorado. He spoke with Colorado Edition about how higher education institutions can help more students.

During an ongoing mental health crisis, many Coloradans with serious mental illnesses end up cycling in and out of the emergency department or jail. Without easily accessible long-term treatment, this cycle leaves some with nowhere to go. KUNC’s Leigh Paterson reports on a $65 million piece of legislation that aims to create more places where people can get help.

May 4th is known to fans around the world as Star Wars Day. Colorado fans can show off their light- or dark- side fandom by grabbing one of a handful of custom license plates being auctioned by the state. Options include ANAKIN, KYLOREN, MANDO, YODAIAM, and JEDI. The proceeds raised go into a fund to benefit Coloradans living with disabilities. The auction continues through Sunday. May the Fourth be with you!

Colorado Edition is hosted and produced by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1). Web was edited by digital operations manager Ashley Jefcoat.

The mission of Colorado Edition is to deepen understanding of life in Northern Colorado through authentic conversation and storytelling. It's available as a podcast on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music in the show by Blue Dot Sessions.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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