CMU plans effort to encourage students to pursue more education

Tim Foster, President, CMU
Tim Foster, President, CMU

Colorado Mesa University has proposed a collaborative program intended to increase the number of local high school students who pursue further education after graduation.

“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,” said Tim Foster, president of CMU.

Under a plan submitted to the Mesa County School District 51 Board of Education that would run through 2022, CMU would hire a total of four advisors to work with students at Central, Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade high schools to help them explore their operations for additional education.

CMU would provide salaries, benefits, training and supervision of the four advisors as well as collect and analyze data to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. School District 51 would provide office space, laptop computers, software and funds for student travel and events.

Information collected from the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that about half of District 51 high school graduates neither pursue additional education nor join the military within a year of graduating, Foster said.

The proportion of graduates found in college within a year of graduation ranged from 48 percent for students from Central High School to 57 percent at Fruita and Palisade high schools to 60 percent at Grand Junction High School. The average for all District 51 schools was nearly 53 percent.

“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 of the program 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 Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, would pursue alternative funding sources to help sustain the program.