The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) held its annual summer symposium on Friday, August 2 on Western’s campus in the University Center’s Ballroom.
The event brought together roughly 130 representatives from higher education institutions across Colorado, as well as leaders from nonprofits, community foundations and political appointees. Discussions ranged but focused primarily on developing and strengthening the skills of all COSI grant recipients, while sharing program innovations and developments. The event gave organizers the chance to discuss effective methods of growing and enhancing the COSI network across the state as well.
Western is the first rural campus to hold the symposium, thanks in part to the work of Western Dean of Graduate Studies, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and associate professor, Abel Chavez, Ph.D. He had oversight in bringing the symposium to campus. Chavez believes that holding the event here not only indicates COSI’s dedication to inclusivity, but also the notion that Western is a major player in terms of improving the accessibility of higher education to students in Colorado.
“It signals Western’s leadership and willingness to engage in key dialogue around present day educational challenges,” Chavez said. “I believe it…confirms Western’s role is key in addressing some of the real challenges facing education today.”
Some of those challenges were topics of discussion at the symposium, including the ever-increasing cost of higher education, the struggle of closing the Achievement Gap and the best practices to train the next cohort of graduates entering the workforce. There were also conversations about rural fundraising, careers across the state of Colorado and serving Generation Z students.
COSI was founded in 2014 in an effort to help create a network of student support and scholarship programs for individuals entering postsecondary institutions, particularly those from underserved areas. To increase the affordability of higher education, COSI provides tuition support to students. Their goal is to decrease the amount of debt that students graduate with, while simultaneously promoting student persistence and retention.
Western was awarded its first COSI grant in 2015. Since then, the school has received nearly $300,000 in COSI scholarships, including $11,185 given earlier this year.
Chavez believes that number is just the beginning of what is possible through collaboration with the group. “As Western continues to build its partnerships with neighboring counties, I’d expect the total value of scholarships awarded will continue to increase, thereby positively impacting the lives of many more students.”