DENVER – Members of Colorado’s minority communities are predicted to face a backslide in educational achievement after high school.
This was one of the sobering realizations provided Thursday by Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Department of Higher Education, during a preview of the organization’s new master plan.
The last master plan, introduced in 2012, had several major strategic goals that Reed addressed.
First was the goal of having 66 percent of Coloradans enroll in college or pursue a “credential of value” by 2025.
Currently, the state stands at 55 percent.
“The goal was set because we wanted to make sure we were meeting the educational requirements of the workforce,” Reed said.
The Georgetown Center for Education and Workforce estimates that 74 percent of Colorado jobs will require some level of post secondary education by the year 2020.
To supply the workforce of the future, the Department of Higher Education laid out a series of strategic goals, which it is revisiting:
Increase postsecondary completion, which would cut down on students who drop out and are more likely to default on their loans. Erase equity gaps among Colorado’s different demographics. Improve student success through having on-campus resources available to them. Invest in affordability and innovation to make higher education more attainable.Based on trends over the last five years, white students are expected to exceed the 66 percent goal, laid out in 2012, of achieving some post secondary education, but other demographics are predicted to fall short or, in some cases, suffer setbacks.
According to the department, African Americans have a 39.4 percent rate of achieving some post secondary education, but this number is expected to drop to 35.7 percent by 2025.
Native Americans show a similar trend, dropping from 28.5 percent in 2017 to 25.3 percent in 2025.
Hispanic Americans are expected to close the gap from 28.5 percent in 2017 to 38.3 in 2025, but this leaves them more than 27 percent short of the department’s goal.
Reed said the increase in achievement by this demographic was of particular importance based on the growth of the Hispanic population in Colorado.
“There needs to be a lot of focus there,” she said. “When we met with the state demographer, she said (about) a 60 percent increase in the working population would be from our Hispanic population.”
While the numbers are not favorable for reaching the 2025 goal, Reed said there is time to correct the trends.
“This does not have to become our reality, but it is where the trends are now,” she said.
Other areas of focus for the 2017 master plan are:
Increasing dual and concurrent enrollment. Discerning why enrollment in teacher education programs and K-12 teacher retention is down. Promoting youth apprenticeship programs, with the goal of creating “a pipeline of mid-skill, career-ready apprentices.”Fostering food security for college students, particularly among minority and first-generation students.While changes to the master plan, including erasing equity gaps, were previewed for the press Thursday, the plan has to be completed and approved by the Commission of Higher Education. It is expected to be released by September.