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Students Who Left College During COVID Can Still Earn Associate’s Degree


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A new Colorado law will offer a pathway for thousands of students who have completed significant course work at public colleges and universities to receive an associate’s degree.

Chris Rasmussen, senior director of academic pathways and innovation at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said many students have spent a lot of time and, in many cases thousands of dollars in pursuit of a four-year degree.

But due to a host of factors – changes in family circumstances, relocation or medical reasons – they had to withdraw from school.

“And it’s a way to at least provide some recognition of the time that they’ve spent, the learning that they’ve accumulated,” said Rasmussen, “and to provide a recognition of that that has some value in the marketplace.”


Roughly 1,300 students who left college in the past three years are projected to be eligible to get an associate’s degree under House Bill 1330, recently signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis.

Critics of the measure say employers won’t be interested in hiring people who stopped after their sophomore year, and argue students who complete degrees through community college transfer programs are better prepared to enter the workforce.

Rasmussen acknowledged that an associate’s degree would have more value if a student returns to complete a bachelor’s degree. But he said students who get degrees through the new law will be better prepared than people without an associate’s degree.

“They’ve completed a general education core, they’ve developed writing skills, oral communication skills, all the various things that are associated with general education,” said Rasmussen. “And they’ve also done some beginning study in the major.”

More than 700,000 people in Colorado have some college education, but do not have a degree to show for their work. Rasmussen said good-paying jobs in growing industries with staying power increasingly require a degree, a trend he expects to continue in the future.

“Data from our own talent pipeline report in Colorado demonstrates that over 90% of what we consider the top jobs, those that pay above a living wage, will require some form of post-secondary credential.”

Una nueva ley en Colorado ofrecera un camino para que miles de estudiantes que hayan completado un trabajo de curso significativo en colegios y universidades publicas, reciban un titulo de asociado. Chris Rasmussen, del Departamento de Educacion Superior de Colorado, dice que muchos estudiantes han invertido mucho tiempo y, en muchos casos, miles de dolares en la busqueda de un titulo de cuatro anos. Pero debido a una serie de factores (cambios en las circunstancias familiares, reubicacion o razones medicas) tuvieron que retirarse de la escuela.

“Es una forma de al menos ofrecer algun reconocimiento al tiempo que han dedicado, el aprendizaje que han acumulado, y de brindar un identificacion para aquello que tiene algun valor en el mercado”, agrego Rasmussen.

Se proyecta que aproximadamente 13 mil estudiantes que dejaron la universidad en los ultimos tres anos seran elegibles para obtener un titulo de asociado bajo el Proyecto de Ley 1330 de la Camara, recientemente promulgado por el gobernador Jared Polis. Los criticos de la medida dicen que los empleadores no estaran interesados en contratar a personas que pararon de estudiar despues de su segundo ano, y argumentan que los estudiantes que obtienen titulos a traves de programas de transferencia en universidades comunitarias estan mejor preparados para ingresar a la fuerza laboral.

Rasmussen reconoce que un titulo de asociado tendria mas valor si un estudiante regresa para completar una licenciatura. Pero dice que los estudiantes que obtengan titulos a traves de la nueva ley estaran mejor preparados que las personas sin un titulo de asociado.

“Han completado un nucleo de educacion general, han desarrollado habilidades de escritura, habilidades de comunicacion oral, todas las cosas que estan asociadas con la educacion general. Y tambien han hecho algunos estudios iniciales en la especialidad”, tambien apunto Rasmussen.

Mas de 700 mil personas en Colorado tienen alguna educacion universitaria, pero no tienen un titulo para mostrar por su trabajo. Rasmussen dice que los trabajos bien pagados en industrias en crecimiento con poder de permanencia, requieren cada vez mas un titulo, una tendencia que espera continue en el futuro.

“Los datos de nuestro propio informe de flujo de talento en Colorado demuestran que mas del 90% de lo que consideramos los mejores trabajos, aquellos que pagan por encima de un salario digno, requeriran algun tipo de credencial postsecundaria”, expreso Rasmussen.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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