DENVER - Colorado students could soon be able to graduate in six years with a high school diploma and an associate's degree - all on the state's dime.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Monday that allows a workforce development program to come to Colorado known as P-TECH, for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. The model was developed in Brooklyn as a partnership of IBM, two New York colleges and the New York City Department of Education.
Under House Bill 1270, the state Education Department would be able to authorize local school districts to partner with higher education facilities and a technology-based industry leader to begin offering the six-year program in 2016.
"The world is becoming increasingly competitive for jobs, and allowing our kids to have a little bit of a head start while they are still in high school to be able to come out with an associate's degree ... is a tremendous advantage," Hickenlooper said before signing HB 1270 and another workforce development bill at the Capitol. "The more closely we can tailor these programs and all the things we are working on to the specific skills that are needed by specific industries and specific businesses, the higher the probability that they (students) can get a job."
If 400 students reach their fifth and sixth year in the program in 2020, the Colorado Legislative Council estimates it will cost the state about $3.1 million a year.
The P-TECH program in Brooklyn has received praise for helping students graduate with employable skills. President Barack Obama mentioned the program in his 2013 State of the Union address, saying each student in America needs opportunities like it.
But before students can enroll in the programs, school districts will have to decide to pursue the model and get corporate sponsors to help - and hopefully employ some of the graduates.
"It's going to have a high priority now that the legislation has been signed," House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said. "Sometimes I think the status quo in education doesn't necessarily work for all students, and so it's a real opportunity to make sure that we forge partnerships with business to make sure that we're filling their needs as well."
Duran sponsored the bill along with Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Laura Woods, R-Arvada.
Hickenlooper also signed House Bill 1274, which directs the state's Workforce Development Council to work with industry to develop pathways to employment that include internships and career counseling.
Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644