Beginning with the 2021-22 state fiscal year, the act directs the Colorado opportunity scholarship initiative (COSI) advisory board to allocate to public institutions of higher education (institution) an amount appropriated to the COSI fund from money received pursuant to the federal "American Rescue Plan Act of 2021" (ARPA). To receive a distribution of its allocation, an institution must submit a student assistance plan (plan) explaining how the institution will use the money to provide financial assistance and support services to students who have some postsecondary credits but stopped attending before obtaining a credential, and first-time students who were admitted to an institution for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 academic year but did not enroll for the 2020-21 academic year. The provision of financial assistance and support services is designed to decrease student debt and increase student enrollment, retention, and completion of credentials. The COSI advisory board must review each plan based on specified criteria and may require changes to a plan before approving a distribution. At the end of the fiscal year, each institution must submit a report of how it used the money and the results achieved. The COSI director must include the information in the report that the board annually prepares for the joint budget committee and the education committees of the general assembly. The program to distribute the federal money in this manner is repealed July 1, 2026.
The act creates the student aid applications completion grant program (grant program) in COSI. A school district, a charter school, or a board of cooperative services that operates a high school (local education provider) that chooses to apply for a grant must require the students enrolled by the local education provider to complete the free application for federal student aid and the Colorado application for state financial aid (student aid applications) before high school graduation, unless waived under conditions specified by the local education provider. The act specifies the contents of the application and requires the COSI board to review the applications and approve the grant awards to be paid from an amount appropriated to the COSI fund in the act. Each grant recipient must submit an annual report concerning use of the grant money, and the COSI board must include a summary report in the annual report that the COSI board submits to the education committees of the general assembly. The grant program is repealed July 1, 2026.
The act creates the Colorado re-engaged (CORE) initiative within the department of higher education (department) to award an associate degree to an eligible student who enrolls in a baccalaureate degree program at a 4-year institution and earns at least 70 credit hours, but stops attending before attaining the degree. The act specifies the role of the department in implementing the CORE initiative and the role of an institution that chooses to participate in the CORE initiative. Each institution that chooses to participate in the CORE initiative must annually submit to the department a report concerning implementation of the CORE initiative. The department must review and compile the reports and submit a summary report to the education committees of the general assembly.
The act repeals the requirement that a community college or a local district college must receive approval from the Colorado commission on higher education (commission) to offer a bachelor of applied science degree program. A community college or a local district college that seeks to offer a bachelor of applied science degree program must apply to its governing board, and the governing board may approve the program based on specified criteria. If a governing board approves a bachelor of applied science degree program, the governing board must notify the commission. The act repeals the criteria the commission must apply in approving a bachelor's degree program for a local district college.
The act directs the commission to convene a task force to:
- Review the role and mission and service area of each state institution of higher education, local district college, and area technical college;
- Review the interaction between the institutions, the local district colleges, the area technical colleges, and the state work force development council in supporting and improving workforce development; and
- Review and make recommendations concerning uses of ARPA money for assistance for populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency that address or mitigate the impacts of the public health emergency on educational disparities.
The act describes the membership of the task force and the issues the task force must address. By December 15, 2021, the task force must submit a report of findings and recommendations to the commission and to the education committees of the general assembly. The department must post the report on the department's website.
The act creates within the department a working group appointed by the governor to recommend strategies for increasing the student completion rate for the student aid applications. The working group must submit its recommendations to the commission, the state board of education, the joint budget committee, and the education committees of the general assembly by January 15, 2022.
The act allows the governing board of an institution to classify a qualified person as an in-state student, for tuition purposes only, if the qualified person moves to the state to accept employment, the employer is paying the qualified person's tuition, and the qualified person demonstrates the intent to establish permanent domicile in the state. The qualified person is not eligible to receive the state stipend for the first year of enrollment.
For the 2021-22 fiscal year the following amounts are appropriated from money the state received from the federal coronavirus state fiscal recovery fund:
- $49,000,000 to COSI for distribution to institutions to implement their student assistance plans;
- $1,500,000 to COSI for the student aid applications completion grant program; and
- $1,000,000 to the department to implement the CORE initiative and the associate degree completion program.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)