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CSU’s “non-degree” Denver campus will be used to attract the 37% of kids who don’t go to college

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CSU’s “non-degree” Denver campus will be used to attract the 37% of kids who don’t go to college

Colorado State University Chancellor Tony Frank is fixated on the 56,505 babies born around the state in 1997. One-third of them graduated by age 25 from college, data analyzed by CSU administrators shows, and 37% never enrolled.

Frank and CSU, along with other schools nationwide, are targeting that segment — toward the longstanding U.S. goal of making higher education widely available. A $200 million “non-degree campus” that CSU is building at the National Western Center in north Denver will be devoted to attracting future students, Frank said.

Campus leaders plan to invite every teenager in junior high along on Colorado’s Front Range twice a year to visit and observe researchers in CSU’s new, shiny glass buildings, which are scheduled to open next year.

“We want to pound home the message that there is a pathway to college,” he said in an interview. “In America, we do still agree that, if you have the talent and the motivation, you should be able to make the most of it. But there are barriers. And we are trying to go way back — to the grade school level — and embed experiential learning and implant the idea at an early age that college is really possible.”

Eight miles away in the East Colfax neighborhood, ambitious low-income teens are interested — but say affordability is a major obstacle.

“Man, that sounds so good,” said Pru Soe, 19, a member of the Street Fraternity collective of refugees. He was born at a camp in Thailand after his parents fled civil war in Myanmar and long has talked of applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Universities increasingly want to attract students like Soe and the tens of thousands of others likely to skip higher education — especially as the long-term trend of declining enrollment threatens schools’ revenues.

Over the past year, total U.S. college enrollment decreased by 3.5% to 16.9 million. Since 2010, enrollment has been declining at an average rate of 1.6% a year, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit that conducts research for colleges and universities. Even in Colorado where the population is exploding, the annual number of students enrolled in colleges has decreased since 2010 by 2.7%.

Higher education officials blame the declines on an aging population and other factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and doubts about the value of higher education.

Drawing students more broadly from all segments of U.S. society could help boost enrollment, and this is compelling CSU and other schools to focus more on hard-to-reach communities — even where family incomes are insufficient to afford college. Growing numbers of potential students live in urban areas nationwide where foreign-born residents make up a significant portion of the  population (15% in Denver and 19% in adjacent Aurora), adding language and cultural challenges.

Community colleges traditionally catered to low-income families — and still do. Colorado has 13 of these, with 40 locations, serving 137,000 students who receive technical training tied to workforce needs as well as science and humanities courses that can count toward four-year degrees.

High school graduate Onaing Sar, 19, a refugee from Myanmar whose family was resettled in Denver, will start next fall at the Community College of Aurora. She excelled as an A student at the New America School — and, with help from a teacher and a counselor, filled out applications for schools and federal financial aid.

She’ll walk 15 minutes from her family’s two-room apartment to classrooms, she said, planning to concentrate on math, business and science.

“My mother always told me, since we came to the United States: ‘Go to school.’ She said the most important thing is to go to school. ‘You go to school, better for you,’” Sar said. “She wanted to go to school, too, but she didn’t have a chance. So I will go for her.”

CSU officials now are talking more aggressively about seeking potential students like Sar.

Rebecca Slezak, The Denver Post

Construction workers from JE Dunn Construction work on the Vida building being built on Colorado State University’s campus in Denver, Colorado, on Sept. 16, 2021. The building is expected to be completed by January 2022.

Beyond the economic benefits of ample enrollment, CSU is a land-grant school with a statutory mission of providing agriculture and industrial education to a broad population. Higher education served mostly elites until U.S. leaders in the 1860s set up those schools to bolster democracy and development. Today, the United States ranks among the top 10 nations in the portion of residents (about 46%) who’ve received post-secondary degrees.

The three-building CSU campus in north Denver — just east of Interstate 25 and north of Interstate 70 in Globeville — gives a foothold for expansion. Research facilities here add to the lab opportunities on CSU’s main Fort Collins campus with a focus on water supplies, food production and veterinary sciences. Denver Water is relocating its municipal water-quality testing lab to the campus.

The facilities will be open — at no cost — for public observation. Large windows enclosing the various labs are designed to engage would-be students who can watch veterinarians conducting surgeries on cats and dogs. In a mock exam room, elementary and high school visitors can inspect X-ray images, try to diagnose ailments and play the role of surgeons themselves. They’ll be able to see injured horses receiving acupuncture treatment and race horses training on underwater treadmills.

CSU will spend $10 million a year running this new campus, Frank said, including elementary school partnerships and recruiting activities.

He acknowledged huge financial obstacles in trying to enroll more students whose families cannot easily afford college. CSU relies on private support, tuition, room and board to cover 90% of its budget due to relatively paltry state funding. Low-income students can receive federal and other financial aid based on a sliding scale depending on family income, Frank said, and grants are available to help cover costs of room and board.

“I want all of them to attend college,” Frank said. “We’re going to need all of them. It’s not as if our generation has left the next generation with an easy set of problems to solve.”

But recruiters will be hard-pressed if Street Frat members and other teens in east Denver are an indication.

Most face pressure to earn money to help support their families. “Mistrust of higher education” deters others, said Street Frat director Yoal Ghebremeskel, 36, whose team runs this collective from the basement of a Disabled American Veterans building. “Like, ‘I go to college for four years. Then what?’”

Yet many are motivated. “I’m thinking of college, looking for scholarships,” said Daniel Numbi, 14, who was born in Congo before his family fled war to Uganda. “But I have a B in math.”

CSU and other universities trying to attract potential students “will have to be consistent” in their efforts, Ghebremeskel said. And Kamal Arar, 34, who helps out at Street Frat, recommended reaching teens when they’re in middle school “because then they will listen.”

Among the scores of teens who since 2013 have hung out, horsed around, trained, studied and shared meals at the Street Frat, Soe stands out as one of the smartest, with a knack for asking “foundational questions,” program coordinator Levon Lyles said. But he’s been in trouble, leading to multiple court hearings that have delayed his studies at South High.

Soe claims he’s “clean” now, wiser and determined.

“I want to get everything right. I don’t want to be a criminal,” he said on a recent evening. “Some guys here say after high school you’re done, that you don’t have to go to college to be successful. My mother said: ‘If you go to college, you will be more successful.’”

His friend Micro Win, 22, said he tried college in Montana and found it “too tough,” partly because “they make fun of your accent sometimes.” He turned to a Job Corps program and recently began a night shift job at Home Depot earning $18 an hour with health benefits.

1633019516 961 CSUs non degree Denver campus will be used to attract the

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Entrepreneur John Oo, 21, works behind the counter at his new business Ohlala Sweets, a cookie/pastry kiosk in the Town Center at Aurora Mall in Aurora on Sept. 29, 2021.

Rather than wait for outside financial help, South High graduate John Oo, 21, concluded he and his family must help themselves before higher education is possible.

For years, Oo endured pressure as the eldest son to become a doctor. He began biology and other studies at the University of Colorado in Denver, but realized his family could not afford the bills.

He persuaded his parents to let him delay his studies after completing a two-year degree and obtaining a nursing certificate. While working $25-an-hour night nursing shifts, following a day shift at Chick-fil-A, he said, he saved enough to purchase a kiosk in the Aurora Town Center Mall – called Ohlala Sweets – where he now works “to build an established customer base” and create a family financial engine.

He’s training his 17-year-old sister on weekends to help run the business. Soon, Oo said, he’ll apply for college again. His goal: become a doctor and provide medical help for people in the United States and around the world who cannot afford it.

“”If somebody gives me the opportunity to attend school, I’ll gladly take it. Financial need has been the biggest barrier for me,” Oo said. “And I don’t want to be in debt because that’s too much of a burden for me and my family.”

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Pence’s former top aide cooperating with Jan. 6 panel

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Pence’s former top aide cooperating with Jan. 6 panel

By MARY CLARE JALONICK and JILL COLVIN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence is cooperating with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Marc Short was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and accompanied Pence as he fled his post presiding over the Senate and hid from rioters who were calling for his hanging. Short is cooperating with the panel after receiving a subpoena, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss the private interactions.

Former President Donald Trump was openly criticizing his vice president even as the insurrectionists broke into the building because Pence had said he would not try to unilaterally reject the electoral count as Congress certified President Joe Biden’s victory. Pence didn’t have the legal power to do so, but Trump pressured him anyway.

As Pence’s top aide, Short was also present for several White House meetings ahead of the insurrection. At one point, Trump banned Short from the White House grounds because he objected to the pressure on Pence to reject the legitimate election results.

CNN first reported Short’s cooperation and subpoena.

Some people close to Pence were furious about the way that Trump tried to scapegoat the former vice president on Jan. 6 and became even more incensed after Pence, his closest aides and his family were put in physical danger by the rioters.

Alyssa Farah, who served as Pence’s press secretary before taking on other roles and left her job at the White House before Jan. 6, voluntarily met with Republicans on the House select committee and provided information.

In a series of tweets as the insurrection unfolded, Farah urged Trump to condemn the riots as they were happening and call on his supporters to stand down. “Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump,” she tweeted. “You are the only one they will listen to. For our country!”

The panel in November subpoenaed Keith Kellogg, who was Pence’s national security adviser, writing in the subpoena that he was with Trump as the attack unfolded and may “have direct information about the former president’s statements about, and reactions to, the Capitol insurrection.” The committee wrote that according to several accounts, Kellogg urged Trump to send out a tweet aimed at helping to control the crowd.

The Jan. 6 panel has spoken to more than 250 witnesses, most of them voluntarily, committee leaders said last week, and plans a series of open hearings next year to make many of their findings public.

The committee has deposed a wide range of people, from Trump’s own aides to organizers of his massive rally that morning to allies outside the White House who strategized how to overturn Biden’s legitimate victory.

The panel has also interviewed election officials in crucial swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania who were pressured by the former president and his allies as he pushed false claims of election fraud.

Trump has derided the committee’s work and continued to make claims about fraud that have been widely rejected by courts and election experts.

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Gophers rally for late lead but fall to unbeaten Nebraska

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Gophers rally for late lead but fall to unbeaten Nebraska

Without its floor leader on Monday, Lindsay Whalen’s Gophers were at a disadvantage from the start. But the head coach felt confident she still had enough to hand Nebraska its first loss of the season.

They’d done it before. Minnesota swept the Cornhuskers last season, winning the second game without starting point guard Jasmine Powell. They came tantalizingly close to doing it again on Monday, but in the end Nebraska had too much in a 70-67 victory at Williams Arena.

Kadi Sissoko scored a career-high 25 points, and Sara Scalia added 20 despite playing the point most of the game, but the Gophers couldn’t build on a four-point fourth quarter lead.

“It’s tough to lose. I thought we had our chances to win,” Whalen said. “I thought some guys stepped up with Jazz being out, and so there’s a lot of performances that I thought were really good. But obviously, we didn’t get it done, so it’s tough to take.”

Deja Winters gave the Gophers a 61-57 lead with a driving layup with 4 minutes, 34 seconds remaining, but Nebraska used an 11-4 run over the next three minutes to take control. Sam Haiby, a senior guard from Moorhead, scored eight of those points, giving the Cornhuskers a 68-65 lead with 43 seconds left.

Scalia missed from the paint, and Deja Winters missed an open 3-pointer before Ashley Scoggin hit two free throws with 11.3 seconds left to seal it.

Haiby finished with 13 points, and Jaz Shelley and Bella Cravens each scored 15 points for the Cornhuskers, who improved to 9-0, 1-0 in the Big Ten. The Gophers fell to 6-5, 0-1.

Powell, averaging 12.3 points and a team-high 5.9 assists, was out with a lower right leg injury and wore a stationary boot while watching from the bench. It’s unclear whether she’ll be available for Sunday’s game at Michigan.

“She’s getting treatment and she’ll continue to work with the medical staff and we’ll see how she’s feeling,” Whalen said.

Without Powell, Scalia was forced to move from off guard to point, which she has done before and done well. But the move throws a wrench in a lot of what Minnesota likes to do on offense. Scalia is the team’s best 3-point shooter, and playing point made it nearly impossible for teammates to get her an open shot.

Still, Scalia was effective. She was 4 for 7 from 3-point range and scored on a handful of drives down the center of the lane.

“It was definitely a lot more work,” Scalia said. “They were picking me up in the backcourt almost every possession. I just had to get the offense going and then when it was my turn, or I saw a shot or a play open, I did what I could to create or knock down my shot.”

Turnovers played a major part down the stretch. The Gophers were charged with six in the fourth quarter and the Cornhuskers finished with 21 points off turnovers.

The Gophers trailed 33-31 at intermission but immediately gave up four points on two turnovers to start the third quarter as Nebraska scored the first six points. They started the fourth on an 11-4 run to take a 61-57 lead, but couldn’t get enough stops to expand it.

Nebraska grabbed seven of the next 10 rebounds while outscoring the Gophers 13-3.

“That’s what it comes down to in this league,” Whalen said. “Everybody’s fighting, everybody’s battling, and it’s about those hustle plays and who can get those extra boards when things aren’t falling. We talked about it at halftime, and there were times I thought we were pretty good, but obviously we were not good for long enough stretches.”

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Federal inmate killed in Florence, third such U.S. prison death in a month

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Federal inmate killed in Florence, third such U.S. prison death in a month

WASHINGTON — A federal prisoner at a high-security penitentiary in Colorado died Monday in an altercation with another inmate, marking the third time an inmate has been killed in a U.S. federal prison in the last month.

Jamarr Thompson, 33, was pronounced dead Monday afternoon at USP Florence, shortly after prison staff members responded to the fight, the Bureau of Prisons said.

Thompson’s death was the latest security issue for the federal prison system, which has been plagued by chronic violence, serious misconduct and persistent staffing shortages. His death also comes as the Justice Department is facing mounting pressure from Democrats in Congress to take action to reform the agency.

Last month, a 61-year-old man died after an altercation at USP Tucson in Arizona. And a 32-year-old man was killed last week after a fight with another prisoner at USP Canaan in Waymart, Pa.

The Bureau of Prisons said staff members were called to respond to an altercation between Thompson and another inmate around 2:30 p.m. and “promptly initiated life-saving measures,” but Thompson was pronounced dead by emergency medical crews. The other inmate involved in the fight was treated for minor injuries, officials said.

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