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Colleges in Colorado

Why go to College in Colorado?

Colorado is home to a diverse student body, and its residents are notoriously fanatic about the outdoors. Coloradans enjoy the state’s abundant natural resources year-round: skiing, hiking, sightseeing, or cycling are all popular activities that make this rugged state’s quality of life one of the best in the U.S. In addition to its topography, Colorado offers some of the best higher education in the United States, with exceptional degree programs in mechanical engineering, software design, health sciences, public policy, and aerospace.

Population

Colorado is the 21st most populous state in the U.S., with an estimated total population of 5.5 million. Denver and Colorado Springs are the largest cities in the state, with populations of 693,000 and 457,000, respectively.

Climate

Colorado features a diverse climate, with a complex network of high plains, mountains, foothills, and desert. The state’s temperate overall climate is punctuated by extreme weather conditions largely dependent on elevation. Colorado’s average temperature ranges from 95 °F in the summer to -10 °F in the winter.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

The state hosts over 120 institutions of higher learning, including two-year and four-year public institutions, as well as private four-year universities. Online schools in Colorado are offered within existing university networks and provide a wealth of online and hybrid attendance options.

Sporting Events

Colorado residents love the outdoors; skiing and hiking are extremely popular in in the mountains. The state is also home to several major professional and college teams, and hosts events by the PGA and NASCAR.

Nightlife

Colorado is home to a wide variety of cultural institutions: international film festivals like the Boulder International Film Festival run annually, and top-tier breweries thrive statewide. The state also launched the careers of legendary musicians like Earth, Wind, and Fire and John Denver.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Colorado?

On-Campus

Attending college is a major milestone. Students should consider working with a counselor to assess their goals and abilities in order to match them with the best available program. Traditional on-campus programs in Colorado are available through public and private institutions, and generally appeal to students who are willing and able to relocate. The benefits of on-campus education include more access to instruction from academic specialists, potential work-study positions, and the amenities of collegiate life: libraries, student centers, student organizations, and a more diverse cultural context.

Online Programs

In order to provide more students with access to higher education, many schools in Colorado now offer online degree programs. Interactive learning platforms such as Blackboard — along with technological advances in video streaming — lets online colleges in Colorado be fully competitive with their on-campus options. Generally, online schools in Colorado conduct courses asynchronously, providing students increased flexibility with assignments.

Many programs use third-party proctor services to conduct any testing that may be required. Collaborative projects and internships are sometime available through local proxy organizations, though this level of integration may be less common in smaller institutions. Online colleges in Colorado are perfect for both traditional and nontraditional students, as they can pursue their degrees at a pace that matches their circumstances.

Hybrid Programs

For some students, a hybrid of on-campus and online instruction may be the best option. In contrast to an entirely online education, a hybrid option features a combination of in-person instruction with additional courses taken online. This option is often the best of both worlds: the ability of a university to use technology to manage its student body translates to a higher level of institutional efficiency, which in turn keeps tuition down by minimizing overhead costs. Online courses also allow for a more efficient use of time and energy, giving working professionals and nontraditional distance learners the ability to better manage their participation.

Popular Degree Programs in Colorado

Colorado is home to a number of leading technology research and manufacturing groups, with a robust economy driven by a competitive business environment. Two of the most popular degrees conferred to students, listed below, can be considered a reflection of the significant presence of these industries throughout the state.

  • Geological and Geophysical Engineering

    Geophysical engineering concerns the technology and processes involved in the extraction of ore, minerals, water, and gases from the earth. Colorado’s oil and gas industries form a major part of the economic activity of the entire region. The state’s mountainous landscape lends itself to the research and study of geological processes.

  • Business Management and Administration

    Business management and administration is one of the most popular majors in the U.S. Colorado’s booming economy requires a robust workforce with comprehensive training in the highest standards of business administration. The general applicability of the degree is attractive to growing industries within the state.

Best Online Colleges in Colorado for 2017

This section presents the best online colleges and universities that Colorado has to offer. The online colleges in Colorado are renowned for their high academic standards, and offer state-of-the-art facilities and instruction in the fields of technology, engineering, and health care. In addition, Colorado is home to some of the most prestigious and selective liberal arts research universities in the United States. With such a wealth of information available about the state’s educational possibilities, consulting a trusted ranked profile of schools is a valuable way to discover the right degree program.

1

Regis UniversityDenver, CO

Admissions Rate 66%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 73%
Online Enrollment 36%

Regis University, based in Denver, is a private college grounded in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. It is also one of the top online colleges in Colorado, offering over 100 different certificates, licensures, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees. The long list of available options in the WorldClass System include programs in business, economics, computer and information sciences, education, healthcare, social sciences, engineering, and math. Although exceptions may apply due to individual program requirements, most online courses are taught in a flexible, asynchronous format. Numerous financial aid options are available for Regis students, including educational alliances with employers, benefits for military personnel, and special tuition rates for licensed teachers, paraprofessionals, and employees of partnership organizations. The number of educational options and tuition assistance programs at Regis set it apart as a leader among online schools in Colorado.

2

University of DenverDenver, CO

Admissions Rate 73%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 77%
Online Enrollment 11%

The University of Denver's college of continuing studies, one of the most flexible online colleges in Colorado, offers undergraduate and graduate degree courses for both local students and distance learners. Local students can take a mix of online and on-campus classes to complete their degrees. For working professionals, online courses are delivered in an asynchronous format so that assignments can be completed at an individual pace. Bachelor's degrees available online cover subjects such as communication, global studies, leadership and organization studies, environmental studies, global commerce, and information technology. Undergraduate applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores. Admissions criteria include a minimum 2.0 GPA for previous undergraduate work and at least three years of work experience beyond high school.

3

Colorado State University-Fort CollinsFort Collins, CO

Admissions Rate 81%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 67%
Online Enrollment 10%

Online bachelor's degrees available from Colorado State include agricultural business, anthropology, economics, emergency services, horticulture, human development, psychology, and an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree. Like other online schools in Colorado, courses at Colorado State are delivered in an asynchronous format, although some courses may have synchronous components. The school's continuing education stands out from other online colleges in Colorado because state residency is not a factor in determining online students' tuition rates. All students pay the same amount per credit hour, although tuition varies depending on the program and whether the course is at the graduate or undergraduate level. Previous college coursework must be transferred into some programs to fulfill credit requirements, as not all prerequisites are offered through the Division of Continuing Education.

4

Colorado Christian UniversityLakewood, CO

Default Rate 6% Retention Rate 79% Graduation Rate 47% Online Enrollment 37%

Nontraditional students looking into their options for online schools in Colorado will appreciate the variety of asynchronous degree options available from Colorado Christian University. Whether you are seeking an associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, or certificate, there are dozens of subject offerings including biblical studies, business administration, human resources, marketing, nursing, and theological studies. All students are charged the same tuition rate regardless of their residency status. CCU's Student Achievement Award qualifies certain full-time undergraduate students to earn a discounted tuition rate. CCU also offers a Prior Learning Credit program that permits experienced individuals to fulfill up to 75 credit requirements through exams.

5

University of Northern ColoradoGreeley, CO

Admissions Rate 89%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 48%
Online Enrollment 8%

The variety of uncommon degree subjects makes UNC one of the best online schools in Colorado for prospective students seeking specialized careers. The catalog of online bachelor's and master's degrees at UNC include subjects such as American Sign Language and interpreting, dietetics, special education, and sociology. Whether you are a working professional or distance learner, courses in the UNC Extended Campus system are designed to accommodate the schedules of a diverse student body. Individuals are considered transfer students if they have completed any amount of college-level coursework after high school. Up to 90 semester hours are transferrable to UNC from other regionally accredited institutions.

6

University of Colorado Colorado SpringsColorado Springs, CO

Admissions Rate 92%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 44%
Online Enrollment 8%

As part of the University of Colorado system, UCCS meets a high standard among online schools in Colorado. Programs offered fully online include undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, communications, criminal justice, healthcare sciences, nursing, sociology, and public administration. Bachelor's degrees at UCCS are designed for students who have completed an associate degree. Students can transfer up to 90 credit hours toward an undergraduate degree and up to nine credit hours toward a graduate degree. Online students who are nonresidents are charged a higher tuition rate. Residents enrolled in online colleges in Colorado, including UCCS, can apply to receive the state's Opportunity Fund stipend to assist with tuition.

7

Adams State UniversityAlamosa, CO

Admissions Rate 64%
Default Rate 15%
Retention Rate 53%
Graduation Rate 27%
Online Enrollment 39%

One of many online schools in Colorado offering associate or bachelor's degrees, Adams State University's catalog of programs includes business administration, liberal arts, criminology, social welfare, and accounting. ASU stands out from other online colleges in Colorado by offering many of its online courses to non-degree seeking students, including popular classes in philosophy, political science, and women's studies. ASU accepts transfer credits from military programs, regionally accredited colleges, and institutions recognized by national, professional, and specialized accrediting organizations. However, students who have completed coursework from an unaccredited institution may still be able to transfer credits, provided they have completed a minimum of 24 credit hours at ASU.

8

Colorado Mesa UniversityGrand Junction, CO

Admissions Rate 83%
Default Rate 15%
Retention Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 35%
Online Enrollment 6%

Although their main campus is located in Grand Junction, Colorado Mesa University offers undergraduate distance education courses to residents of every state except Florida and Massachusetts. CMU's catalog of online bachelor's degrees includes areas such as sport management, elementary education, and social sciences. For students who have already completed an associate degree, CMU offers a degree completion program in radiologic technology and a flexible RN to BSN program that allows students to continue their employment while completing their studies. Although Colorado residents are charged the lowest tuition rate at CMU, residents of 32 participating states are automatically considered for reduced tuition.

9

Johnson & Wales University-DenverDenver, CO

Admissions Rate 81% Retention Rate 75% Graduation Rate 52%

JWU has campuses in Denver, Charlotte, Miami, and Providence, and also offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs to online students. Distance learners can enroll in programs such as advertising and marketing, business studies, and human resource management. There are also unique programs available in areas such as baking and pastry arts, fashion merchandising and retailing, entrepreneurship, and sports and entertainment management. Online tuition rates are the same for all students regardless of state residency, with discounted rates available for active duty military personnel. Although several undergraduate programs require the completion of an associate degree, JWU's general admission requirements for online students include a high school diploma or GED along with two years of full-time work experience.

10

Colorado State University-PuebloPueblo, CO

Admissions Rate 96% Default Rate 15% Retention Rate 64% Graduation Rate 33%

Although CSU's Pueblo campus has only a small number of online degree options compared to other online schools in Colorado, students receive the same high-quality education that Coloradans have come to expect from the distinguished CSU system. For undergraduate learners, CSU offers an online degree program in construction management, while graduate students can enroll in the online MBA program. A flat-rate tuition is charged for all undergraduate distance learners, regardless of residency, with additional discounts available for active duty military personnel, veterans, and their dependents. Students enrolled in the online MBA program have the option to complete their studies at an accelerated pace. The MBA can be completed in one year if taking two courses at a time, or within two years if taking one course at a time.

How We Ranked the Schools

To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

Education Trends in Colorado

In general, the cost of education in Colorado tends to be slightly higher than the national average. A portion of this cost can be attributed to the fact that Colorado’s tax structure allocates less than the national average to subsidize the cost of education. The state is also among the most competitive and highly educated of any in the U.S., with residents over the age of 25 holding bachelor’s and graduate degrees at a higher percentage than that of the national average.

  Colorado United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $8,083 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 3% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 8.3% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 24.1% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 14% 11.2%

Paying for College in Colorado

The price of a college or university’s degree program can be a significant factor when deciding where to attend. Scholarships and grants can reduce tuition costs, but for many students, the overall expense of a program is still prohibitive. Loan services, both private and public, help to further mitigate some of these expenses. Note that Colorado’s cost of living and education costs are slightly above the national average.

Tuition Prices

The following table shows how the price of education in Colorado differs from the national average. Be sure to note that the numbers presented here reflect the tuition price alone, and do not factor in the overall cost of living and other expenses, such as transportation and textbooks.

Financial Aid

In order to afford the cost of online college in Colorado — and graduate in a timely manner — students need to consider all available financial aid options. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be any student’s first step, as it determines one’s eligibility for any federal student loans or scholarships. In general, scholarships are the most valuable part of a total financial aid package; unlike loans, scholarship money does not need to be repaid. Scholarships can be awarded in one of two ways: either directly through the university, or through a private organization. Institutional scholarships are often merit-based, while private scholarships tend to have a more varied and diverse application.

Cost for Online Programs in Colorado

While on-campus and online colleges in Colorado may have significant differences, the options for financial aid are nearly identical. Federal loans and scholarship awards can be used for any degree path offered by an accredited institution, though private issuing bodies may have special considerations or restrictions that should be considered. Many students also find that online programs save them a significant amount of money, largely by minimizing expenses related to relocation and child care. In addition, many online schools in Colorado now offer textbooks at a much lower cost than printed textbooks.

Cost of Living by Region

Students should remember that with greater complexity and density in urban areas comes a higher cost of living. For many students, the “where” is a major aspect of their decision to attend school. Higher expenses often go hand-in-hand with a higher cost of education, but for many students establishing relationships in an urban academic community is a great way to network and pursue the kinds of professional opportunities that lead to viable career paths.

Scholarships for Colorado College Students

Mark J. Smith Scholarship

$2,500; must be a COCPA student member or have submitted application, must be at least a half-time student and intend to practice accounting professionally.

View Scholarship

Boettcher Scholarship

Full tuition at select universities within Colorado, additional $3,000 project grant also available; applicants must be a graduating Colorado high school senior and have lived in Colorado for a minimum of two years. The scholarship is open to legal citizens as well as DACA recipients.

View Scholarship

Sachs Foundation Undergraduate Grant

$5,000; must have been a full-time Colorado resident for a minimum of five years and also have African-American heritage.

View Scholarship

Daniels Scholarship Program

Award varies, total pool of $12,800,000; ACT/SAT scores required, with a minimum ACT score of 17 and a minimum SAT score of 830.

View Scholarship

Greenhouse Scholars Program

Minimum: $4,000, maximum: $20,000; applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.5, with a household income not exceeding $70,000.

View Scholarship

Peters Foundation Scholarship Program

Minimum: $2,500, maximum: $5,000; designed for students pursuing education in environmental sciences. All applicants must submit ACT/SAT scores and a writing sample.

View Scholarship

SocialSEO Digital Marketing and SEO Scholarship

$1,000; students must be pursuing a degree in marketing, business, or communications. The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors, currently enrolled undergraduates, and graduate students pursuing an MBA or master’s degree.

View Scholarship

Stephen T. Kugle Scholarship

$3,000; must be a student member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

View Scholarship

Zinda Law Group Scholarship

$1,000; applicant must be pursuing either an associate or bachelor’s degree in law, law enforcement, political science, homeland security, or similar.

View Scholarship

Latin American Educational Scholarship

Minimum: $750, maximum: $2,000; must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be Hispanic American. All recipients must fulfill ten hours of community service.

View Scholarship

Moody's Mega Math M3 Challenge

Minimum: $1,000, maximum: $20,000; teams of up to five high school students must submit a solution to a given modeling problem in the form of a paper.

View Scholarship

Education First Scholarship

$4,000; preference is given to first generation college students who have overcome significant life obstacles.

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CollegeInvest Opportunity Scholarship

$1000; applicant must be undergraduate students currently attending a university in Colorado. The award is distributed through a lottery system.

View Scholarship

University of Colorado Boulder First Generation Grant

$8,000; must be a Colorado resident working towards a bachelor’s degree and must verify that neither parent attended college.

View Scholarship

Infinitus Dream Scholarship Fund

$3,000; must be permanent resident of Colorado and have undertaken at least 24 credits of college coursework.

View Scholarship

Can All Scholarships Be Used for Online Programs?

A scholarship award may be applied to any online college in Colorado, as long as that program is accredited. It does not matter if it is online, on-campus, or a hybrid of the two. Students should be advised, however, that certain scholarships require fulfilling additional requirements or considerations to qualify. It is very important to ensure that a given scholarship is applicable to your intended school/program before pursuing it.

Employment Outlook in Colorado

As a state with a long history of environmental activism, technological innovation, and tourism, Colorado presents an especially high level of opportunities for working professionals. Its growing economy boasts an unemployment rate almost half the national average, with an annual mean wage $3,000 higher than the rest of the United States. Established technology companies like Lockheed Martin, IBM, and AT&T all call Colorado home, along with popular outdoor brands like Osprey and Big Agnes. In addition, the windswept plains of the state enjoy roughly 300 days of sun each year, making for an important research center for solar and wind energy.

  Colorado United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 2.4% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $52,710 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Colorado

Top Industries in Colorado

  • Energy: Colorado features some of the most progressive renewable energy policies in the United States, with a robust solar and wind industry. With more than 300 sunny days on average, the state is a driver of the renewable energy industry.
  • Tourism: With over 31 million visitors in 2016 alone, urban centers like Denver have been breaking records for tourism for over a decade. The abundant natural resources in the state are a priceless asset that hold wide appeal.
  • Technology: This other BLS-described supersector is service-providing and encompasses all professional, technical, business, management, and administrative jobs and careers. Examples include legal, accounting, IT, scientific research, and advertising positions.

BLS


Top Employers in Colorado

  • Denver International Airport: 35,000 employees
  • University of Colorado-Boulder: 13,300 employees
  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems: 10,000 employees

Source: careerinfonet.org

Accreditation for Colleges in Colorado

A school’s accreditation is perhaps one of the most important factors to consider in one’s decision process. Accrediting bodies certify that a school or program has met a rigorous standard of criteria, ensuring a quality, reputable education. Regional accreditation generally considered more prestigious, and is granted by one of seven regional accrediting bodies throughout the country. National accreditation is usually reserved for trade or for-profit institutions. It is important to note that schools must be accredited — nationally or regionally — for students to receive any federal scholarships or other financial aid. There is generally no difference in accreditation standards between online and on-campus programs.

Regional accreditation generally considered more prestigious, and is granted by one of seven regional accrediting bodies throughout the country

When considering online degree programs, regional and national accreditation agencies are an important feature of a university’s total package. Seven organizations make up the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, but Colorado falls under the jurisdiction of the Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition, the CHEA maintains national educational standards for colleges and schools within the United States.

Resources for Students in Colorado

  • Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Directory: A joint effort of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, this databases exists as a resource to help link students and their families with support programs.
  • College In Colorado: The College in Colorado organization helps Coloradans from less-privileged backgrounds overcome challenges they may face in pursuing higher education, as well as counsel for work placement.
  • United We Dream: United We Dream is the biggest immigrant youth organization in the United States, actively organizing and advocating around issues relating to the successful integration of immigrant communities. They also help maintain a scholarship database for undocumented students.
  • Together Colorado: Together Colorado is a community group dedicated to economic justice, health care, education, and public safety. The organization was founded in 1978 as an activism and outreach initiative of a non-partisan, multi-faith community.
  • Financial Aid Guide: The Department of Education of Colorado has compiled some of their recommended financial resources, including links to FAFSA information, key details about important deadlines for applications, and directories for scholarships.
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