DENVER— Colorado businesses are enjoying a robust recovery from the recession. Good jobs and great quality of life are luring college graduates to the state. But Colorado’s own students are at a disadvantage.
By 2020, three-quarters of Colorado’s jobs are likely to require some kind of education beyond high school. Right now, about 70 percent of jobs require some sort of postsecondary education, said Nicole Smith, the chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. To fill that need with local talent, the state will need to increase the number of credentials and degrees it awards by two percent annually. The state doesn’t seem to have an issue attracting people from elsewhere to fill open positions; unemployment is an impressive three percent. But the state has struggled to educate the children born and raised here so that they can also tap into the economic opportunities around them. It’s a well-known but persistent problem that locals call “the Colorado paradox.”
Right now, half of the adults from out-of-town in Denver, the state’s largest city, have a college degree. But less than a third of the city’s adults born in Colorado can say the same, and that statistic is even worse for people of color. According to state data, four years after they started college in 2011, 32 percent of white students had at least one credential, compared to just 14.5 percent of black students and 21 percent of Latino students. And children of color make up a growing portion of the state’s K-12 students, as they do nationwide. Educators and state officials need to figure out how to help these students graduate from high school and succeed in college, or fewer of the young people born in Colorado will find jobs there as adults.