CMU, District 51 join forces to support post-secondary advancement for local students

Colorado Mesa University leaders will ask the Mesa County Valley District 51 Board of Education to collaborate on a new program designed to increase the number of District 51 students who further their educations after high school.

“Data we have collected from the National Student Clearinghouse tells us that about half of District 51 graduates neither pursue their educations nor join the military within a year after graduating. We don’t think that serves them or the community well,” said CMU President Tim Foster.

“The more education one has, the more likely one is to find a job that pays well. The more education and training the young people in our community achieve, the more attractive the community becomes to prospective employers,” he said.

CMU will submit a proposal for consideration by the school board at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, June 6. Under the plan, CMU will hire four college-career advisors to work with students in the high schools. The advisors will help students explore their post-secondary options and understand the potential ramifications of stopping their educations at a high school diploma.

The advisors would have offices in the district’s four traditional high schools. CMU would provide the salaries, benefits, training and supervision of the four advisors. CMU will also be responsible for data collection and analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The schools district will provide office space, laptop computers, software and funds for student travel and events.

The goal of the program is to increase the percentage of District 51 graduates who pursue post-secondary education and/or training by attending college, training programs or joining the military within a year of graduation.

“This isn’t about CMU or about District 51. This is about the future of our young people and our community,” Foster said. “Do we hope some of those students will choose to go to CMU or Western Colorado Community College? Of course, but what is important is that they choose to further their educations after high school, wherever or however they choose. It is also important that they realize the impact not pursing their education can have on their employability, earnings and quality of life.”

The estimated annual cost to CMU is $261,600. The estimated annual cost to District 51 is $21,600. CMU and District 51, in conjunction with the Mesa County Workforce Center and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, will pursue alternative funding sources to help ensure sustainability of the program. The proposed agreement would run through June 30, 2022.

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