New Scholarships Aim to Connect Class of 2024 to High-demand Jobs

(Photo from

Eric Galatas | Colorado News Connection

This year’s high school graduates will be eligible for 14,000 new scholarships offered through Opportunity Next Colorado, a $21 million investment approved by state lawmakers.

Angie Paccione, Colorado Department of Higher Education executive director, said the goal is to set graduates up for success, and fill high-demand jobs that fuel the state’s economy. She said 75% of all jobs in Colorado, and 94% of top jobs that pay enough to sustain a family, require some form of education beyond high school.

“Right now just under 50% of our high school graduates are pursuing post-secondary education,” she said. “We want to see that number bump up so that our students have the credentials they need to get the job they want.”

Members of the Class of 2024 can get a $1,500 scholarship, which Paccione added should cover the entire tuition costs for certificate programs that can be completed in as little as six months. Graduates can explore scholarships and advising available at, a new platform that spotlights Colorado’s fast-growing industries and related education and training programs.

The initiative hopes to reach students from school districts with below-average college or trade school enrollment rates, and districts with low rates of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Paccione explained many students never see the financial opportunities that are available for pursuing a degree or credential.

“We’re doing a lot of things right now that are targeted at those who are either on the margins of society, or they live in population areas where college has not always been seen as a pathway to success,” she continued.

This year’s high school graduates can choose from a range of programs that can prepare them for careers as engineers, health professionals, computer and IT specialists, as well as construction, family and social sciences, education, advanced manufacturing and more.

“There’s eight different pathways that are high-demand positions. And this would allow people to get the training and education that they need, and get into the workforce, and strengthen the economy. So, we’re very excited to offer these scholarships,” Paccione said.

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