$21 million investment to support education beyond high school

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(Missouri News Service – Eric Galatas) – This year’s high school graduates will be eligible for 14,000 new scholarships offered through Opportunity Next Colorado, a $21 million investment approved by state lawmakers.

Angie Paccione, the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s executive director, stated the goal is to set graduates up for success and fill high-demand jobs that fuel the state’s economy. She noted that 75% of all jobs in Colorado, and 94% of top jobs that pay enough to sustain a family, require some form of education beyond high school.

“Right now, just under 50% of our high school graduates are pursuing post-secondary education,” she said. “We want to see that number increase so that our students have the credentials they need to get the job they want.”

Members of the Class of 2024 can receive a $1,500 scholarship, which Paccione added should cover the entire tuition costs for certificate programs that can be completed in as little as six months. Graduates can explore scholarships and advising available at OpportunityNext.org, a new platform that highlights Colorado’s fast-growing industries and related education and training programs.

The initiative aims to reach students from school districts with below-average college or trade school enrollment rates, and districts with low rates of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Paccione explained many students never see the financial opportunities that are available for pursuing a degree or credential.

“We’re doing a lot of things right now that are targeted at those who are either on the margins of society or they live in population areas where college has not always been seen as a pathway to success,” she continued.

This year’s high school graduates can choose from a range of programs that prepare them for careers as engineers, health professionals, computer and IT specialists, as well as construction, family and social sciences, education, advanced manufacturing, and more.

“There are eight different pathways that are high-demand positions. This would allow people to get the training and education they need, get into the workforce, and strengthen the economy. So, we’re very excited to offer these scholarships,” Paccione said.

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