Colorado Succeeds Expands Focus into Higher Education

Colorado Succeeds is proud to announce the expansion of our impact, broadening the scope of our work to now formally include postsecondary education.

We believe that postsecondary education—education beyond high school, whether an in-demand industry credential program, community college, or four-year university—is a crucial component of our organization’s vision: ensuring all of Colorado’s children are educated to their greatest potential, and all of Colorado’s businesses have the talented and innovative homegrown workforce they need.

Every student in Colorado should graduate from high school with a diploma, a high-quality career-connected learning experience, and a postsecondary credential with market value. Colorado Succeeds will continue to put our expertise in the intersection of education, business, and government to work in service of clearing the path so that more Coloradans have a path to economic mobility.

Scott Laband, President, Colorado Succeeds

In 2020, only 50.5 percent of Colorado students who graduated from high school went on to enroll in any postsecondary education. And research from the Measure of America’s Social Science Research Council shows that in 2022, there were nearly 74,000 ‘disconnected youth’ in the state – 16 to 24-year-olds who are neither in school nor working. When paired with the fact that Colorado has added more than 50,000 jobs in 2022—and filling those jobs is already difficult as Colorado Employers report significant skills gaps and talent needs—Colorado has a significant learner and talent problem that will only continue to grow if action is not taken.

It is critical for Colorado to reboot higher education so it works for students and businesses. Colorado Succeeds is uniquely suited to lead in this work in partnership with industry and support Colorado in graduating more diverse talent faster and at scale.

Loren Furman, President & CEO, Colorado Chamber of Commerce

Today, Colorado Succeeds releases a new report, Unlocking Our State’s Potential: One Million Credentials for Coloradans, describing the state’s postsecondary challenges and opportunities for business advocacy and leadership.

Simply put, Colorado’s postsecondary system was built for a past era and will not produce the industry alignment, access, and the number of Coloradans with the education our economy needs unless business comes together and acts.

Added Capacity to Support Impact

To advance Colorado Succeeds’ impact in postsecondary policy and advocacy, we are pleased to announce two new team members, Katie Zaback and Ben Gerig, as the authors of this report and the experts who will lead this work for the organization.

November 1, Katie Zaback will join the Colorado Succeeds team as the Vice President of Policy. Katie has more than 20 years of experience working with states, postsecondary institutions, and nonprofit entities to use data and research to maximize their impact. As senior policy director at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Katie worked with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to define and execute an ambitious policy agenda that will result in greater affordability, equity, and postsecondary success for all Coloradans.

Additionally, Ben Gerig joined Colorado Succeeds in June as the Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships. Ben has more than a decade of higher education leadership, advocacy, and advising experience, including most recently at Arapahoe Community College, where he supported more than 3,000 high school Concurrent Enrollment students. Ben will be engaging business and industry intermediaries to understand the opportunities and needs of employers across the state. 

Katie is one of the country’s best and brightest policy and data experts. I’m thrilled for her to bring her knowledge and analytical ability to the Colorado Succeeds team and to further have business at the table in our higher education work.

Dr. Angie Paccione, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Higher Education

Business Advocacy and Engagement to Build On

Colorado Succeeds is eager to continue to build on the existing postsecondary policy and implementation opportunities in collaboration with partners. Colorado has an innovative policy landscape with current policies on the books that need the support and advocacy of business to ensure strong implementation and follow-through. Colorado Succeeds has helped pave the way in shaping postsecondary and workforce policy including:

  • Helping envision and support the Regional Talent Development Initiative Grant Program which will provide $90M for talent development initiatives across the state.
  • Supporting multiple postsecondary data transparency bills, including the statewide return on investment report in 2018 and a new student success data system in 2022.
  • Passing landmark bills to ensure the postsecondary education system recognizes all types of learning experiences through bills to build stackable pathways and employer capacity to sponsor work-based learning in 2022, and a bill to ensure students get college credit for work experience in 2020.
  • Finally, Succeeds has led multiple efforts to make transferable postsecondary experiences accessible to high school students, including its most recent support for the Colorado “Blur” Taskforce in 2022.

There are opportunities ahead for industry to come together and put more people on the path to success and cultivate a pipeline of workers for in-demand jobs across the state. This expansion of preschool to postsecondary, paired with these new team members and an ambitious yet attainable goal of one million credentials, will help ensure that from Colorado classrooms to careers, all learners have opportunities to grow and thrive.