Grads earn CMC associate degrees, high school diplomas this month | VailDaily.com

Grads earn CMC associate degrees, high school diplomas this month

EDWARDS — Four local high school graduates will turn their tassels twice this month. Marisol Chacon, Reagen Gass and Tiffany Sheehy from Eagle Valley High School and Maria Villarreal from Battle Mountain High School earned their associate of arts degrees from Colorado Mountain College and walked in that commencement line on Friday. In about a week and a half, they'll receive their high school diplomas and a big head start on college. It's all part of the dual enrollment program. High school students can earn credit for college or vocational school in classes that also count as credit toward their high school diploma. In Eagle County, 329 students participated in dual-enrollment programs in 2012-13, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. That puts the local school district in the top 10 in the state by a total headcount. Gass to study fashion Gass is headed to Los Angeles and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, site of "Project Runway" season six. "Every credit I took at CMC transferred," she said. "The amount I'm saving is ridiculous." Gass said she has always been interested in art and design. By high school, she knew she wanted to work in the fashion industry and started moving toward design school. Her teachers encouraged dual enrollment. "It helped to get (general education) courses done while I was here," she said. "Fashion is incredibly competitive, and getting a two-year head start is a real advantage." Gass plans to study textile design. "I'll be designing the fabric before the designers design the fashions," she said. Because she has completed so many core requirements, she'll be able to dive in to her area of interest right away. And she is clearly excited about her school of choice and with good reason. "Tim Gunn is one of the curriculum directors out there," she said. Chacon a year early Chacon is not only getting a head start on college, she's finishing high school a year early. She earned her high school diploma and her associate of arts degree in three years. She began taking CMC classes as a freshman. She starts at Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall and plans to major in psychology and business. "I wish I could have gone on to university a year ago," she said. Her hope is to land a marketing job after graduation. "I took a psychology class at CMC last summer, and it reaffirmed what I want to do," she said. Chacon said that taking dual enrollment classes streamlined her path through high school and forced her to think about her major sooner than most students leaving home for college. For her, the hard work and busy schedule definitely paid off. "I have the first two basic years of college done, which will save me a lot of money and time," she said.

Dual enrollment saves big dollars for Eagle County students

EAGLE COUNTY — On college tuition checks, the numbers tend to contain more zeroes than your average congressional committee. As a group, local high school students save almost $1 million a year by taking college classes while still in high school. They're called dual enrollment classes and the Eagle County school district ranks eighth among Colorado's 178 school districts in dual enrollment classes successfully completed, according to the Colorado Department of Education. Some local students take so many dual enrollment classes through Colorado Mountain College that they graduate high school with an associates degree and transfer into college as juniors. A third of local high school students will take at least one dual enrollment course. "As we deal with the argument of whether the kids are ready, we can point to about one-third of our kids who already have been taking college classes," said Mike Gass, the school district's assistant superintendent. "What's exciting is looking at the magnitude at which we rank. Being in there with the Auroras of the world is an impressive accomplishment for our students." Fab four This year saw four local high school graduates walk their second commencement line in May. Tiffany Sheehy, Reagen Gass and Marisol Chacon, of Eagle Valley, and Maria Villarreal, of Battle Mountain, all earned associate's degrees from Colorado Mountain College along with their high school diplomas. Keegan Hammond did it a few years back, then headed down to the Colorado School of Mines, where she earned her master's in engineering. At her Eagle Valley High School graduation, she wore her CMC tassel on her custom-made cowboy boots. When Haley Beard graduated high school with her associate's degree, Sheehy spotted the CMC cord and tassel and decided it was more than a fashion statement and that she'd earn one just like it. Sheehy is already taking nursing classes at the University of Colorado, with the goal of working in a children's hospital. Nursing can be a five year program at UNC. Sheehy is on track to finish in three and a half. Nursing students are hammered with hard sciences. Sheehy took biology and chemistry dual enrollment classes, and this summer she's taking anatomy through Red Rocks Community College. She'll take advanced anatomy this fall at UNC. Red Rocks sent her a lab kit that included a cow eye and a sheep brain to dissect. She said the only downside was that her mom wasn't thrilled about dissection in the house, but hey, it was in the name of science — and she cleaned it all up when she was done. Many dual enrollment classes cover the basics like English composition and history. Sheehy also took dual enrollment college algebra and trigonometry and chemistry. Still, her favorite class wasn't dual enrollment or advance placement — it was a straight anatomy class. "I loved it and decided I wanted a career that included it," Sheehy said. Reagen Gass is headed to Los Angeles and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, site of "Project Runway" season six. "Every credit I took at CMC transferred," she said. "The amount I'm saving is ridiculous." Chacon starts at Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall and plans to major in psychology and business. Her hope is to land a marketing job after graduation. Villarreal is headed to Adams State to study criminology. How it works High school students earn credit for college or vocational school in classes that also count as credit toward a high school diploma. The school district picks up the tab for dual enrollment college classes. The school district requires students to earn better than a C-. If they don't, their parents are billed for the class. Some kids can't get the dual enrollment classes in a regular high school rotation, so they'll take classes in the summer. Some student take 12 credit hours in the summer. CMC offers summer classes at Eagle Valley High School. The school district doesn't pay for summer classes. "When you look back over the last summer and put a dollar sign on it, the money they can save on college can be more than they'd make working a summer job," said Mike Gass, Reagen's dad. Students go through testing to make sure they can do college work, then CMC has orientation for students and parents, to make sure everyone is on the same page, said Peggy Curry, who was running CMC's Edwards campus when dual enrollment began locally. They're college classes and high school students are assessed the same as an on-campus student would be, Curry said. Gary Redo started the school district's dual enrollment by partnering with Colorado Mountain College. "Some colleges have no idea what to do with this," Mike Gass said. "They ask, 'What do you mean you're going to enter as a sophomore or junior?'" Ascent is a fifth-year option that's part of the dual enrollment program. If a kid has taken enough classes, the school district can escrow their diploma and the money will be spent on their first year of college at CMC. The Ascent program also includes some of the vocational programming, EMT and auto shop, Gass said. "That allows a kid to stay on the college path for at least another year," Gass said. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Colorado Mountain College hands out degrees and certifications at ceremony

EDWARDS — Tassel turning season opened yesterday as Colorado Mountain College conferred its second group of four-year degrees, along with dozens of associates and professional degrees and certifications. "For me, this is the happiest day of the year," said Peggy Curry, CMC's vice president of its Edwards campus. Colorado Mountain College is home to many non-traditional students, said Celia Franklin, who gave the graduate address. Franklin earned her bachelor's degree in sustainability studies. She has been accepted to four different master's degree programs and plans to start this fall. Her two sons are also in college. Feels Like Family Earlier in her life she gave up on college because she couldn't afford it. She traveled, landed in Colorado and a bunch of life happened. The stars aligned a few years ago and she was able to go back to school to pursue her bachelor's degree. She's thrilled to be done, but also a little sad. "CMC has become like a large family, and I'll miss that," she said. Think about the future, but not too much, she said. "Nothing ever happens in the future. Everything happens now," Franklin said. 'A Progressive Discovery' As the graduates were presented their diplomas, CMC's Larry Dutmer read a quote each graduate had prepared. Pearls of wisdom ranged from the time honored to the graduates' own inventions. "Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance" (Will Durant) was matched by heartfelt thanks to the graduates' families and those who supported them. "Finally, I've made it! Thanks to my family!" wrote Carolyn Schneider, who earned her bachelor's in business administration. Michael Rowe earned his college degree just a few months after his 65th birthday, in early childhood education. He thanked his wife for putting up with all this. Speaking of non-traditional students, because of CMC's dual enrollment through local high schools and the Eagle County school district, four seniors earned their associates degrees two weeks before their high school diplomas: Eagle Valley High School's Reagen Gass, Tiffany Sheehy and Marisol Chacon and Battle Mountain's Maria Villarreal. Dave Vroman won this year's campus community service award. Vroman worked in local firefighting for 35 years and was chief of the Gypsum fire department for 30 years. He retired this past year. Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president of Colorado Mountain College, talked about life. Stuff changes, but what's important does not. "Ten years ago, Facebook was a playground for Harvard students. Google was an emerging concept. Now, it's an action verb," Hauser said. "Imagine what the world will be in 10 or 20 years from now." Some of Friday's graduates will have 10 or 12 careers in their lives. Some have had that many already, Hauser said. Hauser recalled Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who summited Mount Everest first with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. He greatest accomplishment, though, was building hospitals all around Nepal. Despite that, Hillary said, "Life's greatest challenges is exploring the leader within." The path will have its blisters, its oxygen deprivation, but you're at a summit and you'll reach others, Hauser said. Finally, it was time to turn their tassels. "Moving your tassels from the right side to the left signifies the achievement of your educational goal. And how about throwing those hats!" Curry said as the auditorium filled with blue mortarboards. And with that, the graduates turned their tassels from right to left, and strode confidently into the rest of their lives. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

College president visits Edwards

EDWARDS — Carrie Hauser has this vision in her mind: A 17-year-old kid receives a letter telling him he has been accepted to college, her college. He didn't actually apply to college, but his acceptance letter says Colorado Mountain College has a spot for him. Every high school graduate in one of CMC's districts is eligible for a spot in the college, Hauser explained. Sending a college acceptance letter is one of the ways CMC's new president, Carrie Besnette Hauser, Ph.D., would remind local families that the best value in education is right up the street. Hauser is more new-ish than new. "When I came on board about 10 months ago, the strategic plan had been underway about how to position the college in the next 50 years," Hauser said. David Delaplane founded Colorado Mountain College founder by walking around talking to people and knocking on doors, convincing them to tax themselves for a regional two-year college. They did, and in 1967 CMC started in Leadville and Glenwood Springs. CMC is now 11 campuses in an area that covers 12,000 square miles and 13 school districts. Each campus is different, but they have this in common. "Every community embraces their CMC as their own," said Matt Gianneschi, CMC's chief operating officer. Accepting kids to college is one thing, preparing them for college is quite something else. In CMC's service area, 50 percent need some sort of remedial help, Hauser said. To remedy that, CMC is partnering with school districts to work with kids as early as preschool, and following through to their senior year of high school. "That's another big idea we're pursuing: Can we get kids ready for college? You start with start with preschool, and you help students who are not ready for college get ready during their senior year," Hauser said. Degrees by degrees Hauser and Gianneschi took their show on the road, preaching the virtues of CMC to faculty, staff and regional business leaders. They also listened. Not so long ago, the Climax molybdenum mine between Copper Mountain and Leadville needed electricians, so CMC imported a program from CMC's Rifle campus to Breckenridge. According to the Georgetown University Center, 75 percent of all jobs will require some kind of college or training after high school, so CMC is expanding its certificate programs, Gianneschi said. You can also earn a four-year college degree at CMC. In 2008, CMC was trying to convince lawmakers that this part of the state needed some four-year programs because, well, there aren't any. "The argument was to allow the people to have this opportunity and give them access," Gianneschi said. Some Front Range four-year colleges hollered like they'd been skewered, so the compromise was that the state would not provide additional funding for four-year programs. In 2009, CMC started adding four-year bachelor's degrees: business administration, sustainability studies, nursing, teacher education and applied science. Sticker shock is part of what drives young teachers away, Hauser said. It's an expensive place to live. "If we can actually grow our own teachers here, there's a much higher probability that they'll stay," she said. The sustainability degree is built around integrated systems and how they, well … integrate. Some graduates are working on masters degrees, some are starting businesses, Hauser said. You can also pick up college credit while taking high school dual-enrollment classes. Four local students earned associates degrees, and graduated college before they graduated high school last spring. In 2008, the state was limiting those kinds of programs. High school students were allowed only two dual enrollment classes per year and had to pay for them. Across Colorado only about 5,000 did. All that changed in 2009 when the state loosened the reins. Last year, 30,000 high school students earned college credit. Colorado is now considered the model nationally, Hauser said. "It wasn't that we assumed students would get associates degrees, but we wanted to make it available," Hauser said. "The only prerequisites are the students' ability and motivation."

CMC grant pays forward two years worth of tuition

EAGLE COUNTY — Imagine a high school graduate handing his Colorado Mountain College tuition checks to a trustworthy source for safekeeping while he earns his associate degree at CMC. At graduation, that same tuition money is paid forward to a four-year college or university to help the student complete his bachelor's degree. That's essentially what a grant offered by Colorado Mountain College does. Dick Martin was among those who helped to establish the college and served on CMC's board of trustees for 14 years. When he retired from the board in 1984, his fellow trustees established the Richard C. Martin Grant in his name to encourage local students to continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree. The catch? Students must apply for the grant during their first semester at Colorado Mountain College. To be considered for the grant, a student needs to: • Be a high school graduate from a school within CMC's six-county district (Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Lake and part of Routt) • Meet in-district residency requirements • Start attending CMC within two years of graduation from high school, and complete associate degree requirements at CMC within five years of initially enrolling in the college. Credits earned while the student is in high school are not eligible for factoring in the grant amount, nor are developmental education course fees. But all other paid tuition is included in the amount of funds that are forwarded on to the four-year educational institution, in or out of state, that the student transfers to complete their education. The grant can also be applied toward Colorado Mountain College's bachelor's degree programs. Deb Cutter, financial aid and resource specialist at Colorado Mountain College, said she has never heard of a funding opportunity like the Richard C. Martin Grant. "It's quite unusual," she said. "And there are no academic prerequisites. The grant reemphasizes our open enrollment status as a community college." To apply for the grant, students must submit an application no later than the end of their first semester at Colorado Mountain College. Students currently enrolled in their first semester at Colorado Mountain College must apply for the grant by Dec. 12. For more information, contact Cutter at 970-947-8358, dcutter@coloradomtn.edu or go to coloradomtn.edu/martingrant/.

Vail Valley: CMC gets high marks for producing Olympians

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Colorado Mountain College students, including a few in the Vail Valley, have more than diplomas on their minds. Apparently, they’re shooting for Olympic gold.Nine athletes who competed in the 2010 winter games have taken classes at CMC, according to school records.In fact, Colorado Mountain College appeared in a Feb. 26 Wall Street Journal article on colleges that produced the most 2010 Olympians. The journal estimated that CMC produced five athletes, ranking 17th among the schools that taught the most Olympians. CMC shared 17th place with Harvard University. The journal’s estimate had been based primarily on athlete biographies provided to the Vancouver organizing committee.Clearly, Olympians are drawn to CMC. One reason could be the school’s many campuses near ski resorts.”We have campuses in Steamboat Springs, Aspen, the Vail area, Breckenridge – that’s a big part of it,” said Debra Crawford, public information officer for the college. “Also we have flexibility to fit their training schedules.”Federal laws prevent CMC from revealing which campus the athletes attended but other details are fair game.Check out the Olympic roster:Ski cross• Apparently, Eagle-Vail’s Chris Del Bosco excels at more than ski cross. He made the CMC honors list in 2005. He graduated from the school with a “certificate of occupational proficiency in Emergency Medical Technician Basic in 2006.” Del Bosco raced for the Canadian team in the Vancouver Olympics.Skeleton• Born in Vail, Katie Uhlaender competed for the Americans in skeleton at the 2010 Olympics. She worked toward an associate of arts degree from CMC in 2007. She now lives in Breckenridge.Nordic combined• Before Bill Demong became the first American to win a gold medal in nordic combined last month, he took classes at CMC in 2003 and 2004.• Johnny Spillane: He bagged three silver medals for the Americans in nordic combined at the 2010 Olympics. At CMC, he took classes in the summer of 2008. His major was undeclared.• Taylor Fletcher competed for the Americans in nordic combined at the 2010 Olympics. He worked toward an associate of science degree from CMC after taking classes in 2008/’09.Snowboarding• Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler competed for the American team in Vancouver. She took classes at CMC in fall 2000. Her major was undeclared.• Olympian Chris Klug apparently has career interests beyond snowboarding for the United States team. He graduated from CMC with a certificate in real estate in 2008.Cross country skiing• Aspen’s Simi Hamilton competed in cross country skiing for the Americans in Vancouver. He attended CMC part time in 2004.Alpine skiing• Jake Zamansky skied the giant slalom for the American team in Vancouver. He attended CMC in 1998. His major was undeclared.Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily letter: Wow — look at CMC today

My first experience of Colorado Mountain College dates back to early 1970. CMC was a resource for enrichment courses for the growing Eagle County adult population. Today CMC is a vibrant public college which offers two- and four-year undergraduate degree programs: Five bachelor degrees (third most affordable in the country), 54 associate degrees and 77-plus certificate programs. Last week I had the honor of joining the Colorado Mountain College Foundation Board, representing the Edwards campus within the greater CMC district of 11 locations over 12,000 square miles. As I learn more, I am increasingly impressed with the opportunities that this community college brings to all of us. Feb. 21, CMC's "Women in Philanthropy" brought nationally renowned environmentalist, author, and two-time vice presidential nominee Winona LaDuke to the Edwards campus to talk with both students and the community at large. Her lecture that evening was at capacity, with 200-plus attendees, including CMC students, faculty from five different campuses and residents from up and down the valley. FYI, past speakers have included Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson, conservationist Maude Barlow, New York Times best-selling author Susan Cain, landscape photographer John Fielder, and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nancy Rice. This kind of event is a common occurrence at CMC Edwards, is always free and open to the public. The most exciting piece that I have been made aware of is the cooperative effort on the part of CMC and the valley's major employers to understand the staffing challenges and to expand or create new programs to meet employers' needs. CMC works closely with the Eagle County School District to provide dual enrollment opportunities to over 700 high school students, while continuing to collaborate with various local organizations to get our kids more career-ready than ever. Many will graduate with a career certificate and skill set that enables them to join the workforce. Others will enter college with a "jump start" on their college career. CMC prides itself on being the community's college, and from what I have observed, it lives up to that and more. Elaine Kelton Vail

Colorado Mountain College District 2 candidate: Kathy Goudy

Name: Kathy Goudy. Residence: Carbondale. Occupation: Lawyer for 28 years. What prompted you to run for a seat on the CMC board of trustees? I believe that education is the great equalizer. And as one of the many who have reaped the rewards of higher education, I regard it as my responsibility and privilege to help repay that debt of opportunity. My hope is to commit my skills of organization and advocacy to Colorado Mountain College, our own Rocky Mountain wellspring of educational opportunity – and the college that our son, Zach, will earn an associate degree from in the near future. What’s your opinion about the college’s recent move toward four-year degrees? The four-year degree is an incredible asset and should be supported for specific programs. CMC should not focus on competing with the state-funded four-year universities. The taxpayers expect to also benefit from classes in things they need in their everyday lives, be it accounting, languages, dance, physics or bridge. What does CMC need to do to keep college education affordable and attainable for district residents? It’s important that CMC and its curriculum serves the constantly evolving civic, social, religious and vocational needs of our mountain region and its daughters and sons. By its actions, the board must emphasize a commitment to the faculty, staff and students, and to the academic opportunities they deserve and desire. The overall budget must aim to support the classroom, and rigorous financial oversight is crucial as CMC faces the challenges of expansion. This is a particularly crucial moment for committed local citizens to help guide and support Colorado Mountain College. Even as the institution enters a new era of expansion into a four-year institution of higher learning, it must, like all of us, deal with uncertain economic times. It faces those challenges even as for budget-stressed families with children about to graduate from high school, CMC becomes all the more crucial as an academically rigorous yet financially achievable option to many universities and their soaring tuitions. I promise to always keep in mind that CMC’s statutory mandate, for which it receives taxpayer subsidies, is to provide all citizens access to a varied range of academic opportunities and educational disciplines: • Lifelong learning: Community members continue to utilize the campus in their town for job skills, technology, and the arts. • Academics: The classroom must continue to be rigorous, challenging and instill a joy of learning, as well as an associates degree and transfer to a four-year college. Reasonable accommodation for all students to benefit from the junior college disciplines must be the rule. • Bachelors of arts: Four-year degrees that permit residents to better themselves by attaining professional degrees without the economic turmoil of leaving their homes, or long commutes. • Vocational and job training: The law enforcement academy, chef certificates, oil field technical training, and hospitality classes exemplify the integration of general education with technical training to succeed in specific jobs. • Life skills: CMC receives tax subsidies to ensure that all residents are able to succeed in life, be it, for example, obtaining literacy or their G.E.D.

Colorado Mountain College board candidates detail experience, vision

High country residents will choose who represents them in local higher education this November as four Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees seats are up for election. Voters in all six counties of CMC's district elect the seven at-large trustees, and one resident each is elected from Eagle, Lake, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties while two trustees represent Garfield County. The board usually meets every other month at rotating CMC locations, and board responsibilities include employing and evaluating the president, approving the college budget (roughly $60 million in 2015), establishing college goals and monitoring progress. CMC now offers five bachelor's degrees along with various associate's degrees, vocational certificates, training programs and non-credit courses across its 11 locations. The Summit County campus — which includes Breckenridge and Dillon locations — is home to CMC's culinary institute; business, nursing, sustainability bachelor's degrees; and outdoor education, emergency medical services, early childhood education and English as a second language programs. Summit County's current representative, Bob Taylor, isn't running again; longtime local Patty Theobald is running unopposed and will take his spot later this fall. The only contested seat is in eastern Garfield County, and incumbent Kathy Goudy and challenger Jon Warnick are vying for the spot. They bring different experiences and skill sets, but both candidates have years of experience with CMC, want to support the college in its current direction and care about connecting campuses with their unique communities. The remaining two candidates are incumbents, Pat Chlouber (Lake County) and Ken Brenner (Routt County). The other three board members, who were elected for four-year terms in 2013, are Charles Cunniffe (Pitkin County), Glenn Davis (Eagle County) and Mary Ellen Denomy (West Garfield County). 'WE'VE WORKED SO HARD' Goudy is an attorney specializing in criminal defense and constitutional law. She has lived in Minnesota, New Jersey, Kansas and North Dakota, and she earned a degree in history before graduating from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1982. She has taught business law classes and seminars at community colleges in Nebraska and Iowa. She started taking lifelong learning classes at CMC off and on after moving to Carbondale in 1999. Her son graduated with an associate's degree in physics in 2012. When she was elected as a trustee in 2011, she said, the board didn't have a viable strategic plan. CMC has since experienced leadership changes, notable Carrie Besnette Hauser has taken the helm as president and created a new strategic plan. "I'm really glad I did it because I'm really glad we're at where we're at now," Goudy said, mentioning enthused teachers, good morale and sky-high enrollment. "CMC is exciting, and we've worked so hard over the last four years to get it here." She is running on a platform of inclusiveness for all residents in CMC district and better utilization of campuses. For example, if people in Breck want cupcake classes in the winter, CMC should provide that, she said, and the same goes for welding classes and physics courses. The Leadville campus has been better serving its community in the last few years, she said. "I'd like to see more of that in Dillon." She said she speaks her mind if she notices something wrong, pushes fiscal transparency and budget transparency and advocates for lifelong learning classes. 'PERPETUAL STUDENT' Warnick moved to the Carbondale area in 1998 after retiring from a career in the telecommunications industry with IBM. He worked all over the U.S. for the company as well as in Tokyo and London, and he spent the last 15 years working in China. "That's who we're competing against in the global economy," he said, and his observations of education in Asia have helped him identify strengths and weaknesses in the U.S. He has engineering, business and law degrees and started studying religion, ethics, arts, psychology, economics and other humanities courses at CMC. He has taken a class every semester to total 34 in the last 15 years. "I really am a perpetual student," he said. He is running on a three-part platform: community integration, educational excellence and affordability. He wants the college to collaborate with local school districts, so high school students don't need remedial courses, and he wants "It's very important that one, the students arrive ready to take college courses and two, that they graduate on time," he said. Then, "if we do our job right, they've been interned, and they automatically have a job." CMC also should continue helping students avoid crushing loan debt, he said. He has served on the board of the CMC Foundation, the college's fundraising arm, and has been the board's treasurer and chair. He was part of the team that helped create CMC's new strategic plan, and he said he brings 30 years of business experience managing budgets through good and bad times.

Colorado Mountain College distance learning explodes

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College has seen a 14 percent increase in enrollment districtwide this fall, but many of those students can’t be found in the classroom. That’s because they’re enrolled in the college’s various distance learning courses – classes taken via high-tech delivery modes such as Teleweb, interactive video systems and on the Internet. Enrollment in CMC’s distance learning courses has jumped 41 percent this semester, compared to last fall. That’s in line with trends at other colleges in Colorado and around the country, said Daryl Yarrow, CMC’s vice president overseeing distance learning. “We are very pleased with student response to our distance learning offerings,” Yarrow said. “Colorado Mountain College has increased the number of courses we offer each semester, and it appears that we are helping meet the need for affordable, anytime, anywhere education.” Teleweb courses use a combination of Internet instruction and recorded lectures that students watch on videotape or DVD. Also, the college’s interactive video system allows students to take part in classes taught from other campuses by sitting in a video-equipped room at their local campus. And, some classes are also taught online through Blackboard, an Internet interface in which students access the course materials online and interact with instructors and other students via online discussion boards. Among CMC’s most popular distance courses are math, science, social sciences and business. Courses related to medical fields, including CMC’s medical assistant program which started last January, are also drawing more students this fall. As of Sept. 30, 1,171 students had enrolled in distance learning courses for the fall semester at CMC, an increase of 341 over fall 2008. The down economy is one reason community college enrollment in general is up. That’s also likely one reason more students are taking advantage of distance learning courses, Yarrow said. “Certainly, the difficult economy has brought more students to the college who are seeking further education or retraining,” he said. “We are trying to help meet that need with additional online classes.” Two new associate degrees are now offered completely online at CMC, which is headquartered in Glenwood Springs and has campuses around the Western Slope, including sites in Aspen and Carbondale. In August, the Higher Learning Commission, which provides accreditation for the college, approved CMC’s new associate of arts and associate of general studies online degrees. “For those who need a fully online option, we are now able to meet that need,” Yarrow said. “We have many students whose schedules do not allow them to attend classes in traditional formats. Our goal is to better serve our many diverse, growing communities.” CMC has hired a part-time counselor specifically for online students, and the college is also offering accelerated online courses. A variety of three-credit courses, such as American Government, Art Appreciation and Introduction to Business, are now offered in eight weeks rather than the usual 15 to 16 weeks. Many students combine traditional on-campus courses with online or other distance courses. During the 2008-09 academic year, almost 19 percent of CMC students taking classes for credit also took a class through distance learning. Yarrow said studies show that distance learning works best for self-disciplined, independent students with college-level reading and writing skills, and for students who have an immediate need to take a course. Potential online students can complete a self assessment at http://www.coloradomtn.edu/distancelearning to determine whether this format fits their needs. jstroud@postindependent.com