We’re building on proven scholarship success

By Sen. Rachel Zenzinger
Posted 2/18/20

SB20-006 passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 13 and is set to be heard in the House soon. I’m a big advocate for leveraging our successes in the state legislature, and so recently we capitalized …

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We’re building on proven scholarship success

Posted

SB20-006 passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 13 and is set to be heard in the House soon.

I’m a big advocate for leveraging our successes in the state legislature, and so recently we capitalized on an obvious opportunity in the field of higher education. A bill introduced in 2014 worked so well, it prompted us to expand its reach, thus helping untold thousands of students to receive college degrees.

As a student, I worked multiple jobs at a hotel, as a landscaper, and in a bookstore—often at the same time. It seemed as though I was always working in order to pay for school, and it was honestly discouraging. But I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get through—if you can count someone as “lucky” who now has a lifetime of student debt.

Tuition costs have skyrocketed since then — and a college degree has become an expectation for most Colorado jobs. In fact, a 2013 Georgetown study predicted that by the end of this year, Colorado’s economy will require the second most educated workforce in the nation, with 74% of jobs needing some kind of postsecondary education. Yet, according to a Denver Post article from November, Colorado ranks 47th nationally for post-secondary education funding.

There is a stark gap in our education priorities. As illustrated in my own example, students worry about how to pay for their education almost as much as they worry about their actual classwork.

To help make education affordable and accessible for Coloradans everywhere, I have sponsored legislation (SB20-006) to amend the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) and build on a program that has proven its worth. Through COSI, we have awarded $47 million in scholarships to over 75,000 students in 61 Colorado counties. But the COSI program does more than simply throw money at recipients and say, “Good luck.” It

offers support services such as counseling, tutoring, and assistance that help students address all the non-classroom related challenges that often derail the students on their path to a degree.

The result has been inspiring. Students who enroll in the COSI program complete their schooling at a 15% higher rate than their peers. Those COSI students also graduate with a significantly lighter financial burden. Not incidentally, the program also contributes toward our efforts to achieve racial balance in our schools, with over three-quarters of COSI recipients being students of color.

This kind of success clearly warrants an expansion of the program to make it even more accessible and efficient. My bill broadens COSI’s assistance to a more holistic and inclusive model, tying scholarships to all the rising expenses of college education, rather than to tuition alone. It also enhances the support services, and it allows more institutions such as colleges, universities, and school districts to receive funding. Students will be motivated to dream big and work hard because they know they have the support of their community and the entire State of Colorado.

For me, a highly functioning education system has always been a great priority. I will continue to work to offer Coloradans the opportunity to obtain the best possible education because I think it has such a positive effect on the entire community. These pieces of legislation serve as important steps in that direction.

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) represents Colorado Senate District 19.

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