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Colorado’s community colleges are struggling. Enrollment dropped 16% between the start of fall semesters in 2019 and 2021. Graduation rates are as low as 17% at one college.

The steep downturn followed several years of gradual declines at community colleges in the state and across the country, as a strong economy pushed more young people into the workforce. Colorado’s colleges are now left with dwindling revenue and hoping for a post-pandemic restart.

“It seems like it’s this snow globe that we shook and we’re still all waiting to see where the flakes are going to fall,” said Warren Epstein, spokesman for Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs.

To combat the downswing, colleges in the state are handing taxpayer money to students who agree to stay in school — including $1,000 to some students in Westminster — along with free laptops and car repairs. That has put more money in students’ pockets but not reversed enrollment trends.

“Across the board, the most marginalized students are the ones who have not come to college,” said Andy Dorsey, president of Front Range Community College in the north metro, “which is very concerning because those are often the students for whom college is the best return on investment.”

Full story via Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post

Fewer students, more tax dollars: Colorado’s community colleges are struggling

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