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Education: doorway to opportunity

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By Gov. Bill Ritter

Over the past four years, my administration has aggressively protected Colorado’s investment in education, because education is the best anti-poverty program, the best economic development program, and the best doorway to a future filled with opportunity and possibility.
However, our citizens and our economy fully benefit only when students complete degrees. And in this regard, we must do better, and there is no time to waste when you consider that in 2018, 67 percent of all jobs in Colorado will require postsecondary training.
That is why I am calling for a new focused effort called Complete College Colorado. It is time for our parents, students and adult learners, and for our business, civic and college leaders, to join together to make degree completion a priority.
I come from a big family with little financial means, and no history of attending college. For me, going to college was a big decision. Not just where I would go or what I would study, but fundamentally how I could afford tuition. Through scholarships, grants, loans and hard work, I earned my college degree at CSU and my law degree at CU. For me, like countless others, education has opened door after door after door of opportunity.
In the end, access to higher education and support in completing degrees will define the kind of future we want for Colorado. Do we want a future filled with opportunities for our children and with Colorado companies growing, thriving and adding jobs? A future with companies from other states and other nations coming to Colorado because we have the best-educated workforce in the world? Or are we satisfied with importing college-educated workers from other states while our own children get left behind in this ever-more-competitive global economy?
For me, the answer is simple: We must educate our children, and we must help them complete degrees so they can live up to their God-given potential. This is for the quality of life of our citizens, and for the vitality of the state’s economy. Increasing four-year degree attainment by just 1 percent in the Denver area will add an estimated $1.8 billion to the economy.
Recently, the Higher Education Strategic Planning Committee issued a new state master plan. There is much hard work ahead that will take years of effort. In the short term, however, we can make progress increasing the college degree completion rate. We can do a better job of ensuring that students who start college finish. We can reach out and inspire the 630,000 citizens who have completed part of their degrees to go back to college and graduate.
I am announcing the Complete College Colorado initiative. Over the next month, we will focus on ways to increase the number of degrees achieved in Colorado. We will publicize financial aid programs, highlight responsible businesses that are helping employees, and reach out to people who have attended some college but have stopped short of a degree. And at the end of the initiative, we will announce a year-long effort to continue to make progress.
The initiative is about recognizing that education is the key to personal growth and success. It is also the key to the state’s economic future. Please join me along with business, civic and education leaders in our Complete College Colorado efforts. More information can be found at www.complete
collegecolorado.com.

Democrat Bill Ritter is the governor of Colorado. For more information, visit www.completecollegecolorado.com.