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CMU President Tim Foster Presents to Mesa County Valley District 51 Board of Education

CMU announces more than $1 million in permanent scholarship funds for career adviser partnership

Grand Junction, CO – CMU President Tim Foster believes the data is clear: middle class families in much of western Colorado are squeezed out of education after high school. A national survey revealed households in Mesa County making between $21,000 and $60,000 annually exhibit college attendance rates of around just 25 percent. This statistic compares to the Colorado average of nearly 57 percent. In response, Mesa County Valley School District 51, Montrose County School District and CMU established the College and Career Advisor Partnership. This unique approach to improving higher education attendance rates has resulted in over one million dollars of endowed scholarship money to support the partnership. 

“Middle income earners are a critical and underserved part of the community,” said Foster. “Our mission requires that we address this opportunity gap. The advisory partnership is about meeting students where they are to provide the support they need to pursue technical training or college education after high school. The raising of over a million dollars represents a modest but meaningful beginning to our joint efforts.” 

The partnership established CMU advisors in Grand Junction, Central, Palisade, Fruita, Olathe and Montrose High Schools. The CMU staff work with school district counselors but focus exclusively on career advising that expands knowledge around post high school education and training opportunities. 

“We work with students who may not have considered college, and perhaps have restricted means to pay for higher education. But the million dollars in permanently endowed funds allows advisors to offer these students money with the only obligation being they attend college or technical education,” said CMU’s Grand Junction High School advisor Justin Little. 

Also present during the briefing was Mesa Valley Superintendent and partnership supporter Dr. Diana Sirko. 

“The complexity of challenges facing many districts requires out-of-the-box thinking and practical solutions to convert challenges to opportunity,” said Sirko. “The college and career advisory partnership is a shining example of that kind of thinking. These permanent financial resources provided by the city of Grand Junction and private donors mean longevity for the program and that is good news for students.” 

Foster and Sirko remarked on the potential for a joint work session between the school district counselors, teachers and CMU advisors later this summer to vision and plan the program’s future. 

CMU Foundation CEO Liz Meyer said that she was pleased when President Foster received notice of surpassing the million dollar milestone. 

“When critical university partners like the city of Grand Junction and private donors begin supporting the effort, and taking notice of the hard work being done locally by school counselors and career advisors, we know we are on the right track,“ said Meyer. 

Meyer’s remarks reference what Foster also presented to the board in the form of statistical progress. The update highlighted that participation and enrollment in post-secondary education has increased in both Montrose and Mesa Counties. 

In addition to announcing the milestone, Foster and CMU leadership provided updates on the recent P-TECH grant award that is also a partnership with Mesa County School District 51.

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Written by David Ludlam