Published: Jan. 22, 2020

A group of CU Boulder students and staff met with state lawmakers today in support of the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), a statewide initiative that helps Coloradans pursue academic goals after high school.

Senate Bill 20-006, which would modify and streamline the statewide initiative and provide additional funding, is under consideration during the current legislative session. Students met with lawmakers and state higher education leaders during the annual COSI at the Capitol event.

Left to right, CU Boulder students Michael Nothem, Gwendalynn Roebke, Lluvia Macias, Janet Lee and José Gutierrez with State Senator Tammy Story

Left to right, CU Boulder students Michael Nothem, Gwendalynn Roebke, Lluvia Macias, Janet Lee and José Gutierrez with State Senator Tammy Story. (Photo by Casey Cass / University of Colorado)

Chancellor Philip DiStefano said the scholarship program has been an important part of the university’s increased efforts to make college affordable for more Colorado families, including first-generation scholars and underserved students.

“For every dollar contributed, the state will match that funding through the COSI program,” said the chancellor, who is a first-generation scholar. “This incredible matching component boosts our fundraising while allowing us to provide greater opportunities to Colorado students who aspire to earn one or more degrees at CU Boulder.”

CU Boulder has participated in COSI since 2016 and some 300 students have benefited from scholarships averaging about $2,500 per academic year, according to the CU Boulder Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE).

David Aragon, ODECE’s assistant vice chancellor for diversity and student success, said 175 students received COSI scholarships for the 2019-20 academic year, an increase over previous years due in part to a partnership with Boulder County and the I Have a Dream Foundation.

“We are optimistic about continuing this partnership with Boulder County and other counties in the future,” Aragon said.

At CU Boulder, Aragon said COSI boosts academic attainment and stimulates graduation rates by providing scholarships to qualified students who are within 250% of Pell-eligibility and participate in a rigorous, student success program. The CU LEAD Alliance is an example of a rigorous, student success program that serves COSI recipients, he said.

The university’s other efforts to make college more affordable for students include the elimination of all course and program fees; a four-year lock on tuition for incoming undergraduate students; automatic scholarships for academically qualified Colorado resident students; scholarships for academically qualified transfer students; and scholarships and grants for low-income students.

The university has also boosted its efforts to draw in-state students through precollegiate and enhanced support programs for transfer students.

COSI is an outgrowth of funding the state legislature set aside in 2014 to create a network of student support and scholarship programs designed to provide affordable paths into the workforce. The initiative matches community dollars to fund student support organizations and scholarship programs across Colorado.

Since its inception, COSI has awarded $47 million—leveraging $28 million in additional local and private dollars—to serve more than 75,000 students across its college-preparatory and college tuition programs. The program operates in 61 Colorado counties and at all public institutions of higher education, including CU Boulder. COSI students persist at significantly high rates—up to 89%—which is helping Colorado reach 66% statewide attainment by 2025, according to statistics provided by program administrators.

Gwendalynn Roebke, a senior and McNair Scholar from Colorado Springs who is studying neuroscience, astrophysics and philosophy, said COSI had transformed her academic experience and had helped her clear a path for herself at CU Boulder.

“COSI made me feel seen as a scholar, and knowing that I had funding to fall back I on, I pursued my academic interests to the fullest,” she said before her testimony. “The money COSI provides isn’t just a scholarship for students like me, but a lifeline that shows us that we are wanted and capable scholars who stand to achieve unthinkable feats.”