Colorado Promise

January 13, 2018

America used to be a factory town. Growing up, you could look out your bedroom window and see the place you were going to work for the rest of your life. Smoke stacks poked up from behind houses across the street. Storefronts lined Main Street. Local companies operated right in the heart of town. Whatever your “factory” was, you could get there, as long as your road took you through high school.

Graduate, and you’d find a good job, maybe at the same place your parents worked for forty years.

Not everyone did it that way – lots of people left their hometowns to find their fortunes.  But they all got the same promise: go to school, work hard, play by the rules.  If you did this, life would be pretty good.

That promise is broken today.  It didn’t happen all at once, and it’s not the fault of any one person.  But globalization, technology, and short-sighted economic policies that tilt more and more to the most fortunate have built a different kind of American economy than the one we grew up with.

Now, instead of thinking about 40-year careers in one place, an entire industry can emerge, grow and die in five years.  This can make the path to security and prosperity hard to see – especially when you kept your part of the promise, worked hard, got a degree, and still can’t find a job that pays the bills.

Some are trying to promise that we can turn back the clock to a world when these changes didn’t exist. Others want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend this change isn’t coming at all. Neither one of those options can fix the promise that has been broken.

So now we need a new promise, a Colorado Promise, that gives Coloradans the skills to change as rapidly as the new economy does. How do we do it? It starts with ensuring that every Coloradan who is willing to work for it can develop the skills they need to find opportunity in the new economy.

Under this promise, every Coloradan – at any stage of their life – is eligible for up to two years of debt-free tuition for community college or training in exchange for providing meaningful service to the state. Nothing is free in Colorado- you have to work for it- but under the Colorado Promise, that work will allow every Coloradan to get the skills they need for the high-demand and well-paying jobs that are emerging. Those who need it most can also get additional funding for fees, books, and emergency expenses that keep too many struggling students from graduating.

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