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Families in 22 counties now have the opportunity to earn a college degree or certificate tuition free

On September 14, Colorado Mesa University President John Marshall was joined by community leaders to announce a remarkable new initiative that will revolutionize higher education accessibility for students and families in western Colorado. 

The announcement, made by Marshall, Grand Junction City Mayor Anna Stout, Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis, Montrose Mayor Pro Tem David Reed and CMU Trustee Lori Buck,  unveiled the CMU Promise, which focuses on providing affordable, quality education ranging from career and technical education certificates to 4-year degrees. The commitment signifies CMU's dedication to ensuring that a college education is within reach for lower and middle-income families by covering the cost of tuition for those who qualify. 

For years, CMU has been a statewide and national leader when it comes to offering affordable, quality programs. For two decades, the CMU Board of Trustees has worked diligently to keep tuition increases as low as possible, and it’s worked. CMU offers the third lowest tuition and fees in the state of Colorado. The university has done this through several initiatives, one example being Learn For Less, which reduced tuition and fees by 40% for career and technical education programs at CMU Tech. Now, beginning next fall, CMU will launch the next phase in affordability, the CMU Promise.   

The CMU Promise is a commitment to every student from lower to middle-income households in western Colorado that earn $65,000 or less. The promise extends to students from each of the 22 counties in the region, assuring them that if they choose to attend CMU or CMU Tech, the university will find a way to cover their tuition each year. 

This promise is made possible through a network of strategic partnerships and funding sources, including federal Pell grants, Colorado Student Grants, Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), local government contributions, private scholarship opportunities and more.  

“CMU has some of the lowest tuition and fees in the state and in the country, and the reality for us is that doesn’t happen with any one person or organization. That is a community effort,” said CMU President John Marshall. “That happens in partnership with the City of Grand Junction, who has been one of our longest and one of our most important partners, the university, the State of Colorado, CMU Tech's Learn for Less reduction in tuition that we made a year ago, the City and County of Montrose. And of course none of this would have been possible without two decades worth of partnership with Mesa County.” 

During the press conference, Trustee Buck spoke passionately about the board's deliberations leading up to the announcement. She expressed the board's pride in being part of this transformative initiative and emphasized that financial barriers should never deter students from pursuing an educational path or degree.  

“Our Board of Trustees had a really great conversation about this at our last meeting,” said Trustee Buck. “For many, higher education seems like it’s out of reach but with this initiative we’re communicating that financial barriers should never be a reason for students of western Colorado to not pursue a degree.”

Next to speak was City of Grand Junction Mayor and CMU Alumna Anna Stout, who highlighted the City of Grand Junction's long-standing partnership with CMU. Stout emphasized the city's economic progress and how strategic collaborations like the one between Grand Junction and CMU have positioned the region for continued success, which includes the City's investments in students, through internships, scholarships, employment and more. Stout also discussed how if the CMU Promise was available when she was a Maverick, she would have qualified.  


Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis spoke about the importance of workforce development regarding economic growth and the county’s long history of supporting students to ensure businesses have access to a skilled workforce.  

“As a business owner, the biggest thing we struggle with is skilled labor in the community. This is another tool that we have now to help upskill or maybe reskill our community members,” said Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis. “I’m so excited for our outer lining communities, whether it’s DeBeque, whether it's Gateway, whether it's Clifton. We’ve made a sizable investment in those communities in the last couple years and this is just another opportunity for those communities to be able to access free, reduced education, to upskill themselves, to get more opportunity."

He added that the CMU Promise sends a strong message of unity in providing opportunities to every student in Mesa County as well as the 21 other counties the promise extends to. 

Montrose Mayor Pro Tem David Reed shared his enthusiasm for the CMU Promise as both a member of the Montrose City Council and a former CMU Trustee. Reed, who has been a longtime supporter of the CMU Montrose campus, acknowledged the benefits of local kids getting the opportunity to remain in Montrose to pursue their education and graduating with less debt than ever before.  

Reed viewed the CMU Promise as an invaluable outreach tool to communicate the accessibility of high-quality education to families. 

“I want to reaffirm our gratitude to all the donors and philanthropists that have made this day possible. And of course our local government partners. We could not operate this place without your support," said Marshall. “To the families of western Colorado, college is possible and we’re going to help you figure it out." 

Following the announcement, CMU will launch the CMU Promise Tour, meaning every high school in the 22 qualifying counties will be visited by a representative of CMU in the months to come. 

To learn more about the CMU Promise call the Admissions Office at 970.248.1875 or visit  


Written by Kelsey Coleman