Senator Nick Hinrichsen
This week I had the opportunity to hear from Pueblo Community College and CSU Pueblo leaders about the challenges they face and the opportunities they are excited about. What I heard is a story familiar to everyone in Pueblo: people and organizations who have faced seemingly impossible obstacles, achieved extraordinary results, overcome the odds, and moved forward with hope.
After three challenging years since the outbreak and its aftermath, we have been able to work together to celebrate their achievements and continue their growth. This fall, CSU Pueblo welcomed its largest freshman class in four years, and PCC saw its total enrollment top 6,500 for the first time. I am proud of these accomplishments for both institutions, and excited about what those accomplishments mean for our broader community.
One of the things I heard in the discussion was the desire to play a vital role in building the economy of Pueblo. Last year, recognizing the potential for growth in Pueblo’s transportation sector, CSU Pueblo attempted to establish the Regional Transportation Technology Institute. Along with Colorado House Majority Leader Danea Isgar, I fought to get legislation that would allow them to do that. That institute is now on the ground and in operation, providing key research and training tomorrow’s industry leaders to make our transportation networks efficient and sustainable. It gives our community a competitive edge in attracting transportation development companies.
Given the role supply chain efficiency has played in driving inflation, CSU Pueblo is now at the forefront of efforts to reduce the cost of living for Colorado families. Last week, I heard of interest in expanding such programs into the agriculture, energy, and health care sectors, and I’m eager to advocate for that cause.
Another theme I found recurring in the conversation was the hurdles PCC and CSU Pueblo both face with per-student costs. A large portion of their students come from low-income brackets, with a significant amount of their funding dependent on state and federal aid, none of which properly address these conditions. Rising to these challenges is often the difference between a student “making it” or not.
For decades, both institutions have ranked among the best in the western United States in student social activity. In other words, few schools provide a pathway for students from poverty to the middle class or higher, as well as our schools. That’s a success worth investing in. I look forward to raising student economic indicators with a strong focus on college and university funding because I believe our Southern Colorado kids are every bit as talented and driven as kids from Lone Tree or Vail, and I’m committed to helping expand these local successes.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the role that both PCC and CSU Pueblo play in enhancing our diversity. Pueblo County’s Latino population is 49%, and both institutions are federally accredited Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). Less than 5% of colleges and universities in the country have earned the HSI designation.
While the primary purpose of our colleges and universities is preparing students for the 21st century workforce, I have always known that CSU Pueblo and PCC are important cornerstones of our Southern Colorado culture. That reminder is probably the biggest takeaway from my conversations. I had a bone to pick with my colleagues in Denver about what defines our great state, because our community and way of life is a little different than it is here.
Anyone who lives south of the mile mark where the Ronald Reagan Expressway turns into the JFK Freeway knows that it tends to get lost on some people on the north side. Both of our top-rated institutions reflect these differences. And they reflect the best in us as a society.
I’m proud of that. And their pride.
Go ThunderWolves. Go Panthers!
Senator Nick Hinrichsen is the state senator for Colorado Senate District 3., Covering Pueblo County