Ritter signs CMC bill in Breckenridge | SteamboatToday.com

Ritter signs CMC bill in Breckenridge

College about ready to offer 4-year degrees to Western Slope students

Caitlin Row, Summit Daily News





Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signs Senate Bill 10-101 in Breckenridge on Thursday. The bill permits the comprehensive community college to offer as many as five bachelor's degrees. He also signed HB 1131, HB 1399 and SB 196. Standing behind Ritter are, from left, Carla Malmquist, Lin Stickler, Wes Duran, Dick Bateman, John Giardino, Sen. Dan Gibbs, Rep. Christine Scanlan, Alton Scales, Shalee Cunningham, Stan Orr, Yesenia Arreola and Stan Jensen.

— With Gov. Bill Ritter's signature finally on Colorado Mountain College's four-year degree bill, the school is in its final push to offer bachelor's degrees in the High Country. CMC's goal is to have as many as five new four-year degree programs in place by fall 2011.

The CMC bill was signed Thursday in the Breckenridge Campus auditorium before a full house, along with four other bills supported by state Sen. Dan Gibbs, state Rep. Christine Scanlan and state Sen. Chris Romer. Ritter also signed three other bills Thursday in Breckenridge: one to study "zipper lanes" on Interstate 70 as a means of easing congestion; the "Colorado Kids Outdoors" bill to offer youths opportunities to study environmental science education; and another Interstate 70 bill aimed at keeping slow-moving vehicles out of the left lane.

"This is a win-win for businesses, individuals and certainly the Western Slope," Ritter said about the CMC bill during the ceremony. "Rep. Scanlan and Sen. Gibbs have been strong leaders, great partners and bold advocates for their constituents. Their bills will improve our transportation and education systems, strengthen our economy and boost our overall quality of life. I am proud to sign these bills into law here in their district."

Currently, the community college with campuses across Colorado's mountain towns offers only two-year associate degrees. With the bill finally signed, the next step for officials will be to seek accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the blessing of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. To get necessary approvals, the community college must be able to demonstrate its need for new degree programs, as well as its ability to administer and fund them.

"Today, we can now begin to give (four-year degree) access to our community members who live in our 12,000-square-mile district," said Lin Stickler, CMC's executive vice president. "They now have the opportunity to complete their bachelor's degrees. And we believe that we have a large number of citizens who would not otherwise go on to complete their degrees without this access."

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Stickler also said CMC's staff and faculty would work hard to get everything set.

"We will be launching top-quality programs," she said, predicting that new four-year degrees to be offered would include teaching certifications, business (with different focuses) and environmental science.

Scanlan, the former president of the Summit County School District Board of Education, noted the bill's likely effect on the High Country.

"Currently, mountain communities are exporting their residents because they can't get four-year degrees in their towns," she said. "This new law will stimulate our local economies by home-growing our own college grads, who may become teachers or business owners in our communities. And we'll increase rural accessibility. This will expand economic development in the mountain areas."

CMC's Alpine Campus is in Steamboat Springs.

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