College partnerships

FLC, community colleges ease path for students

There are many things that Colorado’s education system does quite well, particularly given the growing scarcity of resources available to schools from preschool through college. Historically, though, coordinating between the various levels of that system has not been at the top of the list. With an agreement signed between Fort Lewis College and the Colorado Community College System, that may be changing for the better.

The agreement would guarantee Fort Lewis College admission in their junior year to community college students who meet grade point average requirements. Along with the guarantee comes counseling assistance for students from the beginning of their community college careers to ensure they are accruing the appropriate credits for transfer, and are aware of the requirements they must meet to move from two-year college to a four-year program. This service, along with the smoothed transition from community college to a full bachelor’s degree program, has the potential to significantly improve student retention, maximize the efficiency of students’ educational dollars and efforts, and produce more graduates from both college systems. With those degrees comes increased earning potential for graduates’ ensuing careers. That is a resoundingly positive list of outcomes.

The agreement extends to students at all community colleges across Colorado — 13 schools and 160,000 students. As a matter of practicality, it will likely most directly affect those who attend Pueblo Community College and Southwest Colorado Community College, this region’s two-year programs. There is no reason to limit the effort to those schools, though. With open coordination between FLC and the community colleges, students at the latter will be encouraged and prepared to continue their education beyond earning an associate’s degree. For its part, FLC will be welcoming students who have met a clearly articulated list of requirements, are prepared to finish out their bachelor’s degrees, and have established a relationship with the college during their time in the community college system. This dynamic bodes well for engaging students throughout their higher education experiences.

Without that coordination, students run the very real risk of designing their course loads in a less-than-ideal way, making transferring more complicated and expensive than it needs to be. In the frustration that can follow in such a scenario, the motivation and means to continue beyond community college can be compromised. By recognizing that weakness and proactively aiming to rectify it, FLC and the Colorado Community College System have made education more accessible and attainable for students who can benefit the most from assistance in navigating what has been an unnecessarily disjointed system. In doing so, both institutions will benefit as well: With clear guidance and incentive to continue through the community college years and on to Fort Lewis College. Enrollment goes up, as does matriculation.

The agreement is an excellent step in smoothing the seams between the various educational entities in Colorado. Preparing students for the next step in their educational paths should be as much a part of educators’ concern as ensuring students meet the requirements of their current grade level. Education does not exist in a vacuum, and building on what came before to best propel students to the challenges that await them is critical to shaping an integrated, effective system. The more that can be done in that vein, the better.