College in Colorado Has Become Unaffordable for Almost Everyone

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New data shows that attending college is becoming an impossible dream for too many people in Colorado.

The report, just issued by Young Invincibles, a group formed by students in 2009 that tackles issues related to health care, higher education and economic security from a youthful perspective, finds that 48 percent of higher institutions in Colorado are unaffordable under what's called the Rule of 10, a standard established by the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based organization intent on making post-secondary education accessible for all Americans.

The Rule of 10 holds that students should pay no more for college than 10 percent of their discretionary income for ten years, or the earnings from working ten hours a week while in school.

When this standard was applied to various types of college attendees, the results are even worse. Only 12 percent of Colorado colleges were found to be affordable for students who work at least twenty hours per week while enrolled — a description that fits more than three-quarters of current attendees. For returning students (adult learners who are coming back to college after being in the workplace) and students who are also parents, that figure tumbles to 8 percent. And for what are characterized as housing-insecure students, no colleges in the state are ranked affordable, period.

Other damning info from the Young Invincibles: 21 percent of young Coloradans are considered to be "rent-burdened"; 30 percent live in "childcare deserts"; and following the Great Recession, Colorado experienced the eighth-highest hikes in tuition. These factors make the state's goal of having a workforce in which two-thirds of members have post-secondary degrees by 2025 that much more difficult to attain.
Below, see Young Invincibles estimates of how much students in the aforementioned categories need to save in order to pay for college in Colorado. Also highlighted are the most and least affordable colleges in the state, by the outfit's reckoning, as well as a median cost estimate and more.

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Colorado Mountain College, which has eleven campuses in western Colorado, is deemed the most affordable college in the state.
Number of Students Who Face Housing Insecurity in Colorado

Out of 300,000 college students in Colorado, 64,000, or 21 percent, experience housing insecurity.

Under the Rule of 10, students experiencing housing insecurity should save $20,400 to pay for college.

Number of Student Parents in Colorado

Out of 300,000 college students in Colorado, 50,000, or 16.67 percent, are student parents.

Under the Rule of 10, student parents should save $42,400 to pay for college.

Number of Returning Students in Colorado

Out of 300,000 college students in Colorado, 62,000, or 20.67 percent, are returning students

Under the Rule of 10, returning students should save $42,440 to pay for college.

Number of Students Who Are Part-Time Workers in Colorado

Out of 300,000 college students in Colorado, 230,000, or 76.67 percent, work twenty-plus hours a week.

Under the Rule of 10, working students should save $49,800 to pay for college.

Most Affordable Colleges in Colorado (Net Price)

Four-year public school
Colorado Mountain College

Four-year private nonprofit school
Johnson & Wales University Denver

Least Affordable Colleges in Colorado (Net Price)

Four-year public school
Colorado School of Mines

Four-year private nonprofit school
University of Denver

Median Net Cost


Ten-Year Change in Education Appropriations


State Minimum Wage

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts