Area community colleges, Fort Lewis strike a deal

Agreement makes it easier to advance to higher institution

By Chase Olivarius-Mcallister

Durango Herald

The path to a four-year degree became more affordable Tuesday as educators unveiled plans to make it easier for community college students to continue their education at Fort Lewis College.

On Tuesday at the Durango Public Library, Patty Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College, and Dene Kay Thomas, president of Fort Lewis College, signed a new Admissions Promise Agreement, which will allow community college students who enroll in the program to transfer to Fort Lewis College in their junior year if they meet GPA requirements.

This year, in-state tuition at FLC was $6,352 per year, almost twice the $3,234 it cost Pueblo Community College students taking the usual courseload in 2012.

Gary Franchi, public relations coordinator for Pueblo Community College, said the new program would help students who aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Mitch Davis, FLC’s public affairs officer, said while the Admissions Promise Agreement applies to all students in the Colorado Community College System, students at Pueblo Community College and Southwest Colorado Community College, located between Cortez and Mancos, were the ones most likely to take advantage of it.

The Colorado Community College System is the biggest higher-education system in the state. It includes 13 institutions and serves more than 160,000 students.

As part of the agreement, students must enroll in the program when they register at a community college. If they maintain a sufficient GPA, they automatically will be admitted to FLC as juniors, and FLC will waive the application fee.

Davis said he didn’t know how many community college students would take advantage of the program, but said FLC administrators were not worried about the loss of future income by waiving the admission fee.

“If a student wants to come here on this Promise Agreement, we’re happy to have them,” he said.

Davis said three community college students had expressed interest in the program long before the deal was finalized.

Franchi and Davis said the agreement deepened FLC’s commitment to helping community college students transition to academic life at a four-year college.

“Right now, students are more or less on their own, to figure out: What courses do I need? Do I want a bachelor’s after this? They don’t have a connection to a four-year school, or to the college advisers who can help them get on a four-year path,” Davis said.

The agreement stipulates that FLC advisers would help students throughout the course of their studies at community college, Franchi said. They’ll have constant interactions with FLC advisers, who will keep them in line, making sure they take the right courses for college, making sure the education is continuous, so all their credits can be transferred when they start at FLC, he said.

“At the same time, there’s another advantage for students,” Franchi said. “The first time they go to the university, it’s big and it’s new, and it’s different – but FLC will invite them to events, so they can get used to the campus and the people. It just breeds familiarity.”

Studies show those with bachelor’s degrees, no matter the field, earn significantly more than counterparts with some college.

A 2011 study conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found those with some college education earned $1.55 million in their lifetime. People with an associate’s degree earned $1.7 million, and those with bachelor’s degrees earned $2.3 million.