Front Range: A major asset in our backyard

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In your opinion, what are the five top assets that serve the general area encompassing Westminster, Brighton, Ft. Collins, Longmont and Loveland? I bet most of you did not include Front Range Community College on your list.

This is not uncommon.

Although Front Range has campuses located in the five above listed communities, too often the community college and what it provides gets overlooked or under appreciated.

In the case of Westminster, Front Range’s roots date back to 1968 with its campus on 112th Avenue. Over time, the need grew to reach out to and accommodate more post-high school students, re-train people in the existing workforce and establish different curriculum. So, campuses were established in those other four communities.

Today, there are just under 28,000 students attending courses among the five Front Range Community College campuses. A total of 8,000 - or 29 percent - of these students attend the Westminster campus. Approximately 250 graduates from Westminster High School attended Front Range immediately after graduation and there are 46 associate degrees are offered.

Creating pathways to support students

But what is more important than sheer numbers is the key role that Front Range carries out; offering courses that are truly relevant for students following pathways that are in-tune with today’s employers.

The college is in the midst of a large-scale endeavor to improve the student experience and increase the number of students achieving their goals. Front Range is following a national trend called “Guided Pathways” in this regard. The college recently received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help design and implement this goal.

According to Cathy Pellish, Vice President of Westminster/North Metro at Front Range, there are numerous exciting curriculum changes taking place to follow the direction of employers and the trades aimed at achieving higher student preparation to compete in the work force.

Exciting, changing times at FRCC

For example, the automotive program is expanding into diesel engines; RTD is a particular good partner in that regard.

The Career and Technical Education program, commonly known as “vocational training,” focuses on the trades. It includes a huge component where industry focus groups’ feedback has caused the college to expand and improve training in IT, health care, surgical technology as well as certificate programs like pharmacy and patient care.

The whole computer arena is fast changing reflecting courses in CISCO, data bases and networking. Multi-media is another fast-growing course-focus that the college offers. Again, the college is targeting based on what employers need.

College credit in high school is a winner

Concurrent enrollment is an opportunity for high school students to take college credits while still in high school, typically on the high school campus. It is a partnership between Front Range and the area high schools and student participation is growing at a solid pace.

More than 35 high schools participate, involving approximately 2,000 students earning 6,000 college credits annually. It gives them a jump on earning the college credits required and often those credits transfer directly into a baccalaureate program. Students also have the opportunity to take CTE courses and often complete a full certificate or degree.

According to Pellish, Front Range would love to have more high school students taking advantage of the college’s concurrent enrollment curriculum and general education courses that align with a particular degree path.

The various trades offer a solid starting salary whether it is in construction trades, health care, or the computer industry. Front Range has a unique partnership with Northglenn High School that offers students the chance to complete an Associates of Applied Science degree in the computer science field within five years when beginning in the 9th grade.

Also, remember that the cost to attend Front Range is much lower than a four-year college. A student who attends their first two years at Front Range cam save $11,238 compared to attending a university (This assumes a traditional university tuition of $20,147 compared to $8,909 at Front Range).

The sky is the limit for your use of FRCC

Why is Front Range Community College a top community asset beyond the educational and work preparation for students? The sky is the limit in taking a course of your choice either for fun or to help prepare you in a different field of work.

Take a course in art, literature, auto mechanics, history or speech. How about exploring the field of emergency medical services or learning pottery as a hobby?

And of course, there is College Hill Library at the Westminster campus. The joint venture between the City of Westminster and Front Range goes back to the 1990s. It provides a strong children’s program, reference section and a wide fiction and non-fiction collection which are available to all.

Hopefully in the future, there will be other joint venture opportunities between the local governments and Front Range as employer needs change.

Also, there is a need for cultural arts facilities and perhaps joint athletic facilities. After all, the college is called a community college.

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