The Colorado education system must demand more academic preparation from elementary and secondary students so they can enter college with the ability to succeed, Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia told Fort Lewis College trustees Friday.
Legislative funding cuts have produced student debt, driven up tuition and limited access to education, Garcia said.
Garcia kept remarks brief because he was on his way to Ignacio for the funeral of Southern Ute Indian Tribal Chairman Jimmy Newton Jr., who died Monday of an undisclosed cause.
Garcia told FLC trustees that their institution is a "jewel" of higher education, but that it faces challenges.
Colorado has one of the best educated populations in the country but is one of the poorest in education funding, Garcia said.
The result is seen in rural areas where the percentage of adults with a post-secondary degree is in single digits, compared with more than 53 percent in urban areas.
Among ethnic minorities, the difference is even more pronounced, he said.
Garcia was president of Pikes Peak Community College from 2001 to 2006 and president of Colorado State University Pueblo from 2006 to 2010 when he became Gov. John Hickenlooper's running mate.
"We need to raise the bar on requirements for graduating from high school," Garcia said. "Tougher standards are needed from kindergarten through high school.
"We can't wait until students show up for college," Garcia said.
Too many high school seniors - up to 40 percent - require remedial work when they go off to college, Garcia said. If more than minimal remedial work is required, there is a good possibility the student will fail to get a college degree.