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Applications increase by 28% during third Colorado Free Application Day

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DENVER – Dec. 10, 2020: Colorado students submitted nearly 57,000 college and university admissions applications during the third Colorado Free Application Day on Oct. 13, 2020, increasing participation from last year's effort and saving more than $2.3 million in waived fees. See the 2020 fact sheet.
Participating institutions received 56,896 applications in total, a 28% increase over last year's campaign. Colorado State University in Fort Collins (CSU) led with 10,336 applications, followed by CU Boulder (9,053) and the University of Northern Colorado (5,837). Statewide, application submissions are up 24 percent compared to last year for four-year colleges and universities.
"We are pleased that so many students saved money with Colorado Free Application Day," said Gov. Jared Polis, who announced Colorado Free Application day in this video message. "In today's world, and even more so post-pandemic, Coloradans benefit greatest from getting education or training beyond high school. By removing this cost barrier during an especially difficult economic time, we are making higher education more accessible for students and families, and I am proud our institutions continue to step up and support Coloradans."
By eliminating application fees, Colorado Free Application Day is designed to boost the state's college-going rate and make progress toward the Colorado Department of Higher Education's (CDHE) strategic goal to erase equity gaps—the racial disparities in higher educational enrollment and graduation. 
Nearly half of the applications (25,206) were submitted by students of color, and nearly a third were submitted by first-generation students (15,698)—two target groups that have historically lower college enrollment rates in Colorado. Among the 2018 graduating high school class, there was an 11-point gap in postsecondary enrollment among the state average (57%) and Hispanic or Latinx students (46%), who make up the fastest-growing ethnic group in the state, and a two-point gap among African American or Black students (55%).
"We are thrilled that we continue to see an uptick in applications this year, especially by our students of color and first-gen students," said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of CDHE. "More and more students continue to take advantage of this opportunity. Even though college may look different this year, we need their energy, smarts and tenacity as we develop future health professionals, researchers and strategists with the skills a postsecondary education provides."
This year the state also tracked the number of applications submitted without SAT/ACT scores. In the spring of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT and ACT exams were canceled across the country, including for Colorado's high school juniors. To address this issue, the General Assembly passed legislation that temporarily allows Colorado public institutions of higher education to determine whether to require national assessment test scores for admission for first-time freshman students who graduate from high school in 2021. Of four-year colleges/university applications, 25,494 or 47% were submitted without SAT/ACT scores. It's important to note that the percentage is likely much higher as four of Colorado four-year universities were not able to track test-optional numbers (CSU Global, MSU Denver, UCCS, and Regis).  Further, 51% of first-generation students, 71% of Native American, and 53% of both African American or Black and Hispanic or Latinx applied without test scores on Free Application Day.
Among transfer students, Colorado State University was the most popular destination with 366 applications, and Metropolitan State University of Denver (286) and University of Northern Colorado (189) came in second and third respectively. 
Colorado Free Application Day caps off Colorado Applies Month, an annual statewide campaign coordinated by CDHE that encourages students to submit at least one postsecondary application and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Despite being one of the most educated states in the country, Colorado sent just 57% of Colorado high school graduates to a college, university or technical school in 2018.  
This year's Colorado Applies Month effort reached more than 10,000 students from 105 schools and organizations, which hosted more than 113 college application and FAFSA completion events statewide.
Comcast and Telemundo donated airtime and video production services to create 30-second public service announcements in English and Spanish, featuring Governor Polis, valued at $561,500. The spots aired in September and October on various cable channels for viewers in mountain communities, the Denver metropolitan area and Northern and Southern Colorado.
For more information on Colorado Applies Month and Colorado Free Application Day, visit