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Photo of Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser. Photo: David Clifford.

This Op-Ed by CMC President Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser was first printed in the the Glenwood Post Independent.

Last week, in the Glenwood Springs central administrative offices of Colorado Mountain College, something special happened. Roughly 30 of our employees volunteered their time over lunch to fold, stuff and prepare nearly 2,000 personalized letters for mailing.

These letters are a ticket to a college education for our local students. They are a promise to each and every graduating high school senior. These “President’s Scholarship” letters offer automatic admission to Colorado Mountain College and $1,000 toward the first year at our college. The goal of this program is to invite every graduating senior to think about and plan for their future. The money is an incentive to help students focus, plan and prepare. This is the second year of this initiative, one we hope to continue for years to come.

The President’s Scholarship program is one way of returning on the investment that our communities make in the college and sending a message to our local youth that CMC is here for them — whether they choose to attend college close to home or go away to one of our other beautiful campus locations. And this scholarship is available on top of the fact that students are already able to earn the third-most-affordable bachelor’s degree in the country at CMC, according to the U.S. Department of Education. What a value, right here in our backyard.

Though we take great pride in creating access through programs like the President’s Scholarship and in maintaining the lowest tuition rates in the state, we, like every other business or government enterprise in Colorado’s high country, must manage rapidly rising costs and volatile changes in revenues.

You may also be hearing about modest increases to some of CMC’s tuition rates for the upcoming year. While our tuition and fees will remain the lowest in the state, we believe that making thoughtful adjustments to tuition now will stabilize revenues in a year when the college expects to experience reductions in both state and local revenues. To offset this impact, the college will increase its efforts to provide additional financial aid and support to students most impacted.

Colorado’s enterprising Western Slope has a long history of independently charting its own destiny and, through hard work and a little ingenuity, securing its future in spite of the challenges. CMC, a college founded on a visionary dream and long odds against its success, is no different. Like the communities it serves, CMC deals with perennial booms and busts striving to ensure success in both good times and in difficult ones.

Delivering high-quality postsecondary education in remote regions of the central Rockies is complicated. Nearly 50 years ago, the college’s founders recognized this and decided that building a locally supported and highly decentralized model was the only option. This structure is more complex and expensive to operate, that is certain. But it allows the college to directly connect with all of the organizations in its communities — the school districts, businesses, governments and nonprofits — thereby maintaining a pulse on the services of most critical need and developing the human capital necessary to keep our local and state economy strong and thriving.

So, to our second class of President’s Scholarship recipients, we welcome you to Colorado Mountain College where we aspire and strive every day to be the most accessible, affordable, inclusive, innovative and student-centered college in the nation. You and our communities deserve nothing less.

Carrie Besnette Hauser, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College.