Many local students are earning college credits while still in high school

Colorado Mountain College Salida has seen a jump in concurrent enrollment at Salida High School since the town joined the CMC District in 2019.

The Colorado Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act, or CEPA, allows area Salida High School and Horizons Exploratory Academy students to simultaneously enroll at CMC while still in high school. Courses can be traditional academic programs or career and tech education programs. CEPA is open to ninth through 12th graders, depending on their program of study.

During the 2020-21 school year, 37% of Salida High School students took CEPA courses. In total, 949 credits were earned last year by high school students.

“This is a substantial increase from years prior when only about 20 area high school students took CEPA classes,” said Ben Cairns, vice president and campus dean at CMC Leadville and Salida. “Last year, 137 individual students took classes for college credit.”

Student enrolling in CEPA class

CEPA coordinator at CMC Salida Keri Vignale, right, helps a student get registered for a concurrent enrollment course.

Cairns added these are college credits earned tuition-free for the high schoolers in the Salida community.

“CEPA courses at CMC Salida set our local students up for success right from the start, whether they want to pursue a traditional college degree or explore career fields that lead to well-paying jobs right after graduation,” Cairns said.

This fall, Sydney Berggren, a 12th grader at Salida High School, is taking several classes in the humanities and business as well as Introduction to Statistics.

The 17-year-old said concurrent enrollment has given her the opportunity to “deep dive” into subject areas that explore culture and history in a deeper way than at the high school level.

“Plus, I’m not much of a math person, so my Intro to Stats class is very challenging,” Berggren said. “My instructor, Michael Schwager, makes the class fun and interesting.”

Berggren hopes to use her credits as a head start to earning a future college degree after high school.

For Salida High School student Axel Longberg, he appreciates the opportunity to take classes through CMC in the technical trades industries to help him explore different career areas.

The 16-year-old has taken many of the auto shop courses offered at CMC Salida.

“I may go into the auto services as a profession, yet even just having the opportunity to learn this field has proven a real practical benefit as I’m applying the skills from class to work on my own automobile,” Longberg said.

Becky Longberg, Axel’s mother, added that until her son started taking concurrent enrollment courses at CMC, he struggled to stay engaged in his school learning.

“Now, he has expressed for the first time an interest in furthering his education past high school,” she said. “His concurrent enrollment class has spurred an interest in learning and the possibility of programs in college that would match his interests and goals.”

To learn more about concurrent enrollment opportunities at CMC Salida contact CEPA Coordinator Keri Vignale by email or 719-530-7903.