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By the year 2020, 74% of jobs in Denver will require a post-secondary degree or certificate.  However, less than half of current Denver residents 25 years and older have a bachelor's degree or higher.

  • Obstacles preventing Denver residents from obtaining a post-secondary degree include:

    • A widespread belief that college is not financially possible, and

    • A failure to complete degree programs because of financial, social and academic pressures.

  • Failure to complete a degree is especially harmful because students are saddled with debt, but then have no post-secondary credential in Denver’s competitive job market.  Additionally, students who complete their degree with excessive debt have difficulty meeting the cost of living in Denver.

The Challenge

"Education is the foundation upon which we build our future."

Christine Gregoire

The Solution

In response, the proposal to ask Denver voters in November 2018 to approve a dedicated funding stream for college access and success programs through a sales tax increase of less than one penny on a ten-collar purchase was passed.  Now known as the Denver College Success Corporation, the initiative will generate between $10 - $14M annually and sunset in 12 years. 



Expand access to post high school education for Denver residents and increase their education completion rate.  This investment in Denver residents will enhance their economic security and mobility, and strengthen Denver’s workforce and economy.

Source of Funds:

0.08% sales tax (less than one cent on ten dollars) with a 12-year sunset.


Use of Funds:

Pay-for-Performance model – partial reimbursement of college access and success expenditures (e.g. scholarships, wraparound services, etc.) made by nonprofit organizations.


Eligible Students:

Denver residents for 36+ months and have a high school diploma or GED; attend a not for profit in-state, accredited college, university, community college or technical school; demonstrate satisfactory academic progress.


Seven-member board appointed by the Mayor and City Council, with annual financial and student results reported to Mayor, Council and Auditor.  Board subject to open meetings and open records laws.


Denver College Success Corporation Specifics:

Who would qualify for reimbursement?

Nonprofit organizations that serve individuals who:

  • Are up to age 25 with a high school diploma or GED

  • Have continuous Denver residency for more than 36 months before their first course

  • Attend a regionally accredited, not for profit or public post-secondary institution in Colorado; and

  • Have already demonstrated Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) as determined by their post-secondary institution.


Eligible students must have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) or a similar measure of financial need as determined by the organization, and funds will be available for reimbursement on a sliding scale.


How would the reimbursement for organizations work?

Nonprofit organizations that provide tuition grants and support services would be eligible to apply twice each year for reimbursement grants from the Denver College Success Corporation for eligible students they supported in the prior academic year.  The application must include a complete list of the eligible students along with the amount spent on tuition grants and support services for each student.  The dollar amount of support services can be a proportional average of the total amount spent on students by the nonprofit organization.


The Denver College Success Corporation will set a sliding scale of reimbursement up to 75% of total costs, with reimbursement rates established by the board of directors.  Grantee organizations cannot apply for more than six years of support for a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree or more than three years of support for students seeking technical certification or an associate degree.


If a student has more than one scholarship, the Denver College Success Corporation can issue reimbursements to multiple organizations for the same student up to a combined total to be established by the board.


Organizations are required to submit a list of eligible individuals that the dollars helped support.  The grantee organization must track students’ progress towards a degree and report this information annually to the Denver College Success Corporation.


How does the policy define “support services” and bolster these programs?

The Denver College Success Corporation will define support services in the same way that the federal TRIO program defines them, as wrap-around services designed to increase college student persistence and graduation.  Services include:

  • Academic tutoring, advice and assistance in post-secondary course selection, and graduation coaching;

  • Assistance with student financial aid, resources for locating public and private scholarships, and assistance to complete financial aid and applications;

  • Education or counseling services designed to improve student financial and economic literacy;

  • Assistance for students enrolled in certificate and two-year programs in applying for admission to, and obtaining financial assistance for, enrollment in two-year and four-year programs;

  • Individualized counseling for personal, career and academic information activities, and instruction designed to acquaint students with career options;

  • Exposure to cultural events and academic programs; and

  • Mentoring programs.