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Starting this fall, Colorado will spend $26 million to provide free community college education for students who want to work in health care.

The new program, called Care Forward Colorado, was launched last week as part of a $61 million investment to expand Colorado’s healthcare workforce using federal relief funds. American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19. The Legislature approved the investment earlier this year through Senate Bill 226.

“We are saving Colorados money and ensuring students can get the skills and training they need to build our healthcare workforce for the future,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who signed the bill in May. “Colorado has one of the most educated and talented workforces in the country, and we are taking steps to develop more talent right here at home.”

From 2022 to 2024, community college students will be reimbursed for tuition, fees, and materials if they are enrolled in one of the following health care certificate programs: Certified Practical Nurse, Medical Technician from emergency, phlebotomy technician, pharmacy technician, medical assistant and dentist. assistant.

Statewide, 19 community and technical colleges participate in the program, including the Colorado Community College System, Aims Community College, Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College, and Colorado Area Technical Colleges.

“Even before the pandemic, Colorado faced shortages of critical entry-level health care positions, and our colleges are committed to filling those gaps with affordable and accessible training,” said Landon Pirius, vice president. Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at Colorado Community College. System. “We can strengthen our work to transform lives and train the next generation of healthcare leaders.

SB 226 was the state’s biggest investment in the healthcare profession to date, Polis said. The bill enjoyed bipartisan sponsorship and support in the Legislative Assembly, passing the Senate unanimously and receiving 46-19 approval from the House.

In addition to making community college free for aspiring health care workers, the bill also creates several grant and pledge programs to bolster the education, training, recruitment, and retention of health care workers.

“I’ve seen firsthand the burnout, stress and angst felt by so many of our first responders during the pandemic,” said Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Thornton, an ER nurse who sponsored The law project. “SB 226 and the free community college programs it creates will boost our healthcare workforce and create new, free options for students to earn the credentials they need to build their careers.”

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