Signed into law on June 6, 2014, the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) was created to address the Colorado Paradox, the state’s high proportion of adults with college degrees is due to credentialed migrants moving in instead of reflecting an educated homegrown workforce. COSI would expand the use of best practices throughout the state through a funding model that received bi-partisan approval. By leveraging state funds to generate local giving, the program grows community efforts and engages private donors to increase available scholarships well beyond the investment from the state. To date, COSI has awarded $36.2 million in Matching Student Scholarship funds, generating a total of $72.5 million in scholarship commitments. Students served by these funds persist at 89% and have an average of $3,276 less debt per year.
Knowing that scholarships must be paired with student supports to impact completion rates, the program’s Matching Student Scholarship (MSS) component complements the Community Partner Program (CPP) grants. By reaching students from a range of socio-economic classes (from 0-250 percent Pell-eligible) underserved students, for whom college seems out-of-reach, are able to not only afford a degree but also access the support they need to persist and graduate. Evaluations of the Community Partnership Program, show most COSI students enrolled in CPP program—85 percent—persist in their education path, 19 percentage points higher than peers of similar demographic groups. Students who receive COSI scholarships perform even better: 89 percent continue on in their second year, outpacing their non-COSI counterparts by 17 percentage points. When looking at students receiving both scholarship and support services, persistence numbers jump to 94%.