Keystone Policy Center Helps Community Voices Shape Future of Colorado Community Colleges During Statewide Listening Tour

Keystone Policy Center has assumed a central role in facilitating a collaborative and inclusive process helping Colorado’s community colleges chart their strategic course for the next five years. On March 13, Community College of Aurora hosted the second in a series of statewide listening sessions aimed at redefining the future of higher education and workforce training.

“We’re doing these listening sessions at all of the [community] colleges because we want to hear from every community what’s important to them,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS). “We want them to tell us what we can do better, what we can do more of, or maybe less of, as we build our strategic plan for the next five years.”

As Colorado’s largest provider of higher education and workforce training, CCCS plays a pivotal role in shaping the state’s economic future. Through its partnership with Keystone Policy Center, CCCS has reaffirmed its commitment to fostering inclusive engagement and collaboration, ensuring that the voices of communities across Colorado are integral to shaping the future of community colleges.

“It’s important that we put the community in community colleges. A listening and learning process means that we are opening up to hear the perspectives and understanding of the broader communities we’re a part of,” said Dr. Landon Mascareñaz, chair of the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE), that oversees CCCS. “[That] means we get to co-design and build and dream together a future for the community college system that ensures that we’re meeting the hopes and dreams of everyone, but also understanding what the real challenges that are blocking us from reaching our full potential as a system. That’s the power of welcoming community into the process.”

The listening tour, commencing at Red Rocks Community College on March 4 and extending into April, underscores CCCS’s commitment to inclusivity and collaboration. Partnering with Keystone Policy Center signifies CCCS’s commitment to fostering inclusive engagement and leveraging collective wisdom to inform strategic decision-making.

“Our goal is for this process to culminate in the delivery of a clear, action-oriented plan that showcases all the assets across CCCS and inspires learners,” said Charles Dukes, Keystone’s Senior Policy Director & Director for its Center of Education. “By leveraging the collective insights garnered through extensive engagement and collaboration, we aim to develop a roadmap that not only identifies strategic priorities but also ignites a sense of purpose and possibility among learners, empowering them to navigate their educational journeys with clarity and confidence.”

Community colleges play a vital role in our economy by providing accessible and affordable education and training programs that directly address the needs of local industries. They serve as engines of workforce development, equipping students with the skills and credentials necessary to succeed in today’s job market. Additionally, community colleges often cater to underserved populations, including first-generation college students, working adults, and individuals from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, thereby fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities for upward mobility.

“The work that we are doing is vast and on the front lines of advancing social and economic mobility,” said Dr. Mordecai Ian Brownlee, president of Community College of Aurora. “We are serving communities that in many cases, historically speaking, have been unserved. We seek to advance workforce development, creating new opportunities for diversifying our workforces. And we seek to create new opportunities for economic mobility for our very diverse student communities.”

Keystone will lead listening sessions at all 13 Colorado community colleges. The full schedule is available at the CCCS website.