Washington is taking a second look at Coloradoâ€™s education system, and rightly so.
Low income and first-generation high school students will have a unique opportunity to step into the world of college,Â all on the stateâ€™s dime.
Through a state program called â€œfifth-year,â€ high school seniors can choose to have their schools withhold their diplomas for a year to attend any public college in Colorado.
Similar to the Advanced Placement programs currently operated in high schools across the nation, the program will push academically inclined students into higher education.
With only 300 or so students eligible for a state-paid year of college, itâ€™s unlikely that fifth year will close the educational race gap.
But opening the doors to higher education for several hundred students â€“â€“ many of whom come from impoverished and minority families â€“â€“ is imperative to the health and success of an equally impoverished system.
Some Colorado high schools have similar programs in place.
To establish a college culture early on, all 76 seniors at Denverâ€™s Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, or MLK, are taking classes from Community College of Aurora professors.
â€œItâ€™s the way we see the future, blending K-12 and higher education,â€ Matt Gianneschi, a vice president at the Community College of Aurora and former education adviser to Gov. Bill Ritter told the Denver Post.
In the future, programs like fifth-year and that at MLK are likely to receive support from the Federal government through President Barack Obamaâ€™s $2.5 billion venture capital â€œCollege Access and Completion Fund.â€
This funding is vital to the success of programs that will likely increase enrollment of minority and low-income students in state colleges and, in turn, bring in more tuition dollars to desperately struggling institutions.