Ties between Fort Lewis College and the University of Colorado might grow tighter as the schools examine partnerships on everything from degree programs to routine purchases of new computers.
“We’re open to joint programs,” said CU President Mark Kennedy, who assumed the position July 1 and was visiting Durango on Thursday. He met with The Durango Herald and planned to meet with FLC President Tom Stritikus, Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger and about 25 students from Southwest Colorado who plan to attend CU in the fall.
Kennedy said it was too early to name the academic discipline in which CU and FLC are pursuing a joint program, but he noted the school already has arrangements with Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado University in which engineering students complete their final two years at CU.
Joint programs also might rely on online work – with students able to complete their final two years of study online without leaving Durango, Kennedy said.
The disruptive nature of the internet has lagged in higher education, but Kennedy said the next several years will see increasing online offerings.
“I don’t have to tell people in the newspaper industry how disruptive the internet communications revolution has been,” he said. “Life has not been easy for media companies. We haven’t seen disruption to that extent in higher education, but it’s coming, and how it affects us is yet to be determined.”
Currently, even students on campus prefer taking a course or two online because it gives them more flexibility and aligns with lifestyles of college-age students who grew up in the digital age, Kennedy said.
Cost-saving collaborations among state colleges will become even more essential as the number of high school graduates declines, a nationwide trend hitting Colorado later than most states, Kennedy said.
In Colorado, he said, the number of high school graduates is expected to peak in 2026 then decline, a trend that has emerged as families have had fewer children since the Great Recession of 2008.
Lauren Savage, spokeswoman for FLC, noted existing partnerships with CU, including a National Science Foundation program among the FLC Department of Physics and Engineering and NSF Science and Technology Center for Real-Time Functional Imaging, headquartered at CU Boulder. The program aims to increase the diversity of students pursuing degrees in advanced material science research.
Another program she noted is a bachelor-master’s combined program that offers a five-year path for students seeking a master’s degree in public history. Under the 3-2 Master’s Degree program, which starts in fall, history majors can apply during their junior year, and, if accepted, will complete their senior year in CU Denver’s Public History and Preservation program. They will then spend a fifth year at CU Denver earning their master’s, trimming the time for a master’s degree from six years to five.
Kennedy also said CU partners with communities across Colorado through its Area Health Education Centers, including the Southwestern Colorado AHEC. AHEC partners with CU medical experts and doctors to improve rural health and to develop a pipeline of students interested in pursuing educational paths in health sciences.