Colorado Department of Higher Education

Hunter Wilson / UNC

School is back in session at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Along with all the freshman, there's a new face on campus - President Andrew Feinstein. He replaced Kay Norton, who led UNC for 16 years.

Feinstein's tenure officially began on July 9.

KUNC's Stephanie Daniel spoke with Feinstein to learn more about his vision for the university.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

According to experts, one of the biggest factors is pay. In 2016, the state ranked 46 in the nation for average salary. Rural schools have an even harder time recruiting because the pay is often lower than urban areas and there's not much of a hiring pool.

"If you lose a teacher, there's nobody that you can just snag from the community to keep up," said Democratic Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a former educator.

Brendan Bombaci/Flickr

[Updated May 4, 2018, 11:50 a.m] Colorado State University on Friday invited the Gray family back to campus for a VIP, all expenses-paid tour to make up for the incident, according to a series of tweets from the school’s twitter account. The family has not responded to the offer.

Original story continues below. 

Colorado State University officials are investigating an alleged case of racial profiling that took place on campus earlier this week.

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Colorado has one of the best employment markets in the country. By 2020 more than 70 percent of those jobs will require some type of advanced degree. But right now, there are not enough qualified workers to fill those positions – only 56 percent of residents have postsecondary education.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Jonathan West reached over and adjusted the young girl's fingers as she plucked the viola strings.

"Why do we do the rainbow?" he said.

"So that you don't touch the other strings," she replied.

Colorado has about 5,000 open educator positions every year -- but the supply has not kept up with the demand. On Dec. 1, the state released a plan to address the statewide shortage and get teachers back in the classroom.

The Colorado Departments of Education and Higher Education outlined their recommendations in a strategic plan that was submitted to the state legislature. The plan has four key goals: improve teacher retention, increase pay and benefits, attract talent to high-need areas and produce more graduates from educator programs.

KUNC’s Stephanie Daniel spoke with Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Department of Higher Education, to learn more about the recommendations.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

School may be out for the summer, but principals and superintendents across the state will be hard at work to make sure schools are staffed up for the fall. An estimated 3,000 teachers are needed to fill vacant positions from Durango to Denver. Meanwhile, the state is graduating nearly 25 percent fewer certified teachers -- and a third of teachers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

Clemens v. Vogelsang / Flickr

Colorado has some homework to do. A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, recently signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, requires the state to study the causes and possible solutions to its chronic teacher shortage. Some of these causes are already known in education circles: declining salaries, sharp rises in housing prices and Colorado’s knotty school finance system. McLachlan, however, offers one more guess.

“Well, it’s probably politically incorrect to say,” she says, “but I don’t think Senate Bill 191 helped.”

Ann Marie Awad

Outside of the single building that houses Weldon Valley Elementary, Weldon Valley Middle School and Weldon Valley High School, it’s very quiet. Kids are in class, and the school is not near any major roads. Megan Quitter can pick out different bird calls as the sunshine warms the cool morning.

“I heard mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds,” she says. “I used to do outdoor education.”

Nathanial Bork

Nathanial Bork was fired from Community College of Aurora in September. He claims it was because he was trying to blow the whistle on what he considered a weakening of academic standards in the classroom.

Now, the American Association of University Professors is investigating the firing. At issue is whether or not the college has watered down certain courses to allow people to pass more easily.