Colorado

Colorado colleges graduate bumper crop

The Community College of Aurora is looking at an eye-popping 70 percent increase in the number of students it graduates this spring if students who say they’ve met requirements are right.

The Metropolitan State College of Denver expects to confer degrees on a record 1,615 graduates this spring, up 27 percent from last year.

And they’re not the only Colorado campuses pumping out bumper crops of capped and robed graduates eager to land jobs or continue their degree-seeking quests.

According to unofficial numbers, the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley will also hand out degrees to a record graduating class of 1,474. The Colorado School of Mines is setting a record with 546 undergraduates and 159 graduate students earning degrees.

While the number of spring graduates has held steady in recent years at the University of Colorado at Boulder, it too is expecting the spring graduating class to be among its largest, CU-Boulder spokesman Greg Swenson said.

Some 5,825 graduates earned degrees this spring from CU-Boulder. Of those, 4,530 were undergraduate degrees, 850 were master’s degrees, 175 were in law, and 270 were doctoral degrees.

“It’s definitely one of the larger classes,” Swenson said.

Celebrating diversity at Metro

To celebrate this year’s large number of 1,615 prospective grads, Metro will hold its first outdoor commencement Sunday morning on the Auraria Athletic Field. President Stephen Jordan will deliver the commencement address reflecting upon the institution’s nearly 45-year history and where the urban campus is headed.

Of the state’s four-year schools, Metro’s graduating class is most diverse, campus spokesman Tim Carroll said. Nearly 20 percent of graduating students are of color, with Latinos representing 10.7 percent of the total. Ten graduates are 20 years old or younger, and seven are 60 or older. Two thirds of the graduates transferred to Metro State from other institutions.

Metro’s top 10 majors are biology, behavioral science, psychology, criminal justice and criminology, history, accounting, speech communication, management, art, and human performance and sport, in that order. Thirteen percent of the graduates, or 207 students, are seeking teacher licensure.

A major reason for Metro’s surge was transfer students. There were 213 more of them in this year’s graduating class, for a total of 1,087. For the three years prior, the transfer figure hovered near 850. Also, Jordan has focused on improving retention and graduation rates since he came on board nearly five years ago, Metro spokesman Tim Carroll said.

UNC grads aged 19 to 57

At UNC, 1,237 of the graduates are earning bachelor’s degrees, 182 are earning master’s degrees, 17 are receiving specialist certificates 38 are earning doctoral degrees. For undergrads, the age range is 19 to 57. For graduate students, it’s 22 to 60 years old. The average age of an undergraduate is 24; while the average age of a graduate student is 33. The average undergraduate GPA is 3.19, while the average graduate GPA is 3.82. It takes most undergraduates nine semesters to graduate.

UNC’s top five majors for undergrads based upon 2010 degrees awarded are: interdisciplinary studies, business administration, psychology, communication studies, sport and exercise science and journalism, spokesman Nate Haas said.

Top majors in UNC’s graduate school were special education, clinical counseling, music, school psychology and sport and exercise science.

Adams State College in Alamosa is reporting a record batch of graduates earning master’s degrees, or 145. The majority of the degrees, or 93, are in counselor education. Of those, more than half completed the degree program online.

Red Rocks Community College expects to award associate’s degrees to 25 percent more students than it did one year ago, said Colorado Community College System spokeswoman Rhonda Bentz.

“We are seeing significant increases in graduation rates,” Bentz said Wednesday, after pouring through preliminary numbers from some of the metro area schools.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education won’t have official graduation numbers for several weeks.

Bleak job prospects for some

Of course, the big numbers just mean more competition for jobs in a job market that is bleak, to say the least. Career advisors say graduates can expect to spend six to eight months on a job hunt. Therefore, they’re encouraging students to start looking around long before graduation day.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported that employers expected to hire about 7 percent fewer graduates in 2009-2010 than they did in 2008-2009. At CU-Boulder, fewer recruiters visited the campus this spring over last.

Lisa Severy, director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Career Services office, said the news “is more hopeful as we’ve progressed into the spring.”

“It’s a funny challenge working with students,” Severy said. “As with any other pursuit, the more effort you put in the more you get out of it.”

Severy said students nearing graduation fall into two camps when job prospects don’t look so hot. They either network like crazy long before graduation day, making the most of career and alumni services and doing things like cleaning up their Facebook profiles and polishing up their resumes. Or, they shut down.

“They go, ‘This is awful,’ and they avoid it,” Severy said. “They move home with their parents, they think about grad school.”

Fortunately, Severy said in the last couple years, she’s seen more students opting for the first option.

This year’s strongest sectors include the technical and education fields, although state and city school district budget cuts have weakened the education sector somewhat, she said. Metro’s career services office is spotting some jobs opening up in the government sector and in healthcare.

Severy said the primary skill graduates may need is patience.

“Because the job market is tricky right now it can take longer to find a job, so students need to get a thick skin in terms of rejection,” Severy said.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede