Yesterday, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 22-226 that directs $26 million to CCCS’s board, the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE), to cover tuition, fees, and course materials for short-term healthcare programs at community, local district, and technical colleges. Sponsored by Senators Sonya Jacquez Lewis and Bob Rankin and Representative Kyle Mullica, SB 22-226 is the largest state investment to date in supporting healthcare professionals and expanding access to training programs.
In addition to training, the programs require students to complete clinical hours at health facilities, which currently limits how many students are accepted by schools. To increase capacity, the bill provides funding for healthcare facilities to add training slots for new and existing employees.
“Even before the pandemic, Colorado faced shortages in critical entry-level healthcare positions, and our colleges are committed to filling these gaps through affordable, accessible training,” said Dr. Landon Pirius, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the Colorado Community College System (CCCS). “We are grateful to Governor Polis and Senators Jaquez Lewis and Rankin and Representative Mullica for prioritizing legislation that makes historic investments in students and in our programs so we can bolster our work to transform lives and train the next generation of healthcare leaders.”
We are grateful to Governor Polis and Senators Jaquez Lewis and Rankin and Representative Mullica for prioritizing legislation that makes historic investments in students and in our programs so we can bolster our work to transform lives and train the next generation of healthcare leaders.
The $26 million appropriation comes from the state’s economic recovery fund and will be used to reimburse students who enroll in certificate programs in allied health, such as nurse assisting, emergency medicine, and phlebotomy through 2026. The bill also requires the CCCS to connect students to apprenticeships and other work-based opportunities that lead to family-sustaining jobs. CCCS plans to launch the program, called Care Forward Colorado, and provide information on how to apply in the coming months.
“I cannot stress this enough: Colorado needs more nurses and health care workers,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica. “Pandemic pressures and staffing shortages have taken their toll on our health care workers, and my bill invests more than $60 million to train and recruit more nurses. To build a healthier Colorado, we are directing funds toward getting more dedicated nurses and health care professionals into hospitals and clinics. I am proud to champion this legislation, not only for my nursing colleagues in the ER but for the millions of Coloradans who depend on our health care workers each and every day.”
Across its 13 colleges, CCCS offers dozens of in-demand healthcare credential programs that stack into two- and four-year degree programs, empowering students to continue their education and advance in their careers. CCCS also oversees many Career and Technical Education (CTE) health programs in high schools that give students a head start on their training.
The signing comes as Colorado looks to quickly expand the healthcare workforce. Entry-level healthcare positions, such as phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians, are expected to grow by 38% and 24% by 2023, respectively, according to data from the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. General healthcare support jobs are projected to jump by 16%.
“As we move forward together, we must invest in Colorado’s health care workforce and better prepare and equip our health care heroes,” Sen. Jaquez Lewis said. “This new law will not only result in better quality of care for Coloradans, it will give workers advanced skillsets that help them grow and move forward in their careers.”