PPCC to receive more than $5 million to help boost Colorado economy

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Pikes Peak Community College will receive more than $5 million in grants aimed at accelerating Colorado’s economic recovery by making higher education affordable for workers whose employment was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative is giving Pikes Peak Community College and the PPCC Foundation two grants totaling $4.6 million, the release stated. An additional $900,00 in federal funding will bring the total investment to $5.5 million, officials said.

“Over the next five years, these PPCC programs will support nearly 1,500 Pikes Peak region residents to skill, reskill, or upskill in high-demand fields like healthcare, education and information technology,” said Monument Republican state Sen. Paul Lundeen, a member of that chamber’s Education Committee. “The shortage of available workers is a serious drag on our industries and businesses – and ultimately on the economic success of our region.”

Signed into law in 2014, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative was created to help give residents “an affordable path into the workplace,” according to its website. In its first five years, the initiative awarded $47 million in state funds and assisted more than 75,000 students, officials said.

A grant of $3.7 million will go to the aptly-named Finish What You Started Scholarship, a fund for adult Coloradans with at least 30 credit hours who haven’t been able to complete a degree program. Eligible students will receive $1,250 per semester for “direct educational expenses” and will have access to student success coaches who offer academic and administrative support for adult students who might be years removed from their last college course.

An $850,000 Back to Work grant to the PPCC Foundation will be augmented by $900,000 from the American Recovery Plan Act for a total of $1.75 million, officials said. The Back to Work grant will aid Colorado workers who suffered job losses or pay decreases because of the pandemic. The scholarships will enable low-income Coloradans age 25 or older to learn a new job skill or enhance the skills they already have by earning a certificate or credential in the information technology, education or healthcare fields.

“We were honored to work with the Governor’s Office and State Legislature to help Colorado come back stronger through higher education,” said Dr. Cynthia Armendariz, the opportunity scholarship program’s senior program director and operations officer. “Back to Work and Finish What You Started provide clearly-defined pathways to greater economic security and earning power.”

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