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Colorado Department of Higher Education approves technical assistance grant projects totaling more than $400,000 to build out stackable credentials

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DENVER – Sept. 7, 2023: The Colorado Department of Higher Education recently awarded more than $400,000 in technical assistance grants to 11 institutions of higher education. Institutions applied to receive a Colorado Credential Pathways Technical Assistance Grant to support the development of high-quality stackable credential pathways leading to high-value occupations. These dollars are part of CDHE’s allocation from legislation designed to ensure greater access to quality short-term credentials that prepare Colorado’s learners and earners for careers in high-value industries.
The grants will be used to support a variety of projects and assistance in the form of faculty stipends, contract support and costs associated with prior learning assessments or updates to data infrastructure to accommodate new credentials or prior learning pathways. Institutions are using these dollars to build pathways in behavioral health, information technology, education and healthcare. 
"With these dollars, our colleges and universities can develop new, shorter-term credentials that prepare students for in-demand jobs or alternative pathways into certificate and degree programs in high-value fields,” said Dr. Ruthanne Orihuela, director of credential pathways and prior learning initiatives at CDHE. “This investment helps more Coloradans get college credit for what they already know, thereby reducing the time and cost of credential attainment. The grants also support the development of new short-term credentials of value that prepare students for in-demand, critical jobs. Though the initiatives vary by institution, these grants help institutions move toward greater stackability and improved return on investment for students.”

  1. Colorado Mountain College up to $45,000
  2. Colorado State University up to $44,105
  3. Colorado State University Pueblo up to $12,000
  4. Front Range Community College up to $45,000
  5. Metropolitan State University of Denver up to $45,000
  6. Northeastern Junior College up to $40,734
  7. Red Rocks Community College up to $33,000
  8. University of Colorado Denver up to $45,000
  9. University of Northern Colorado up to $42,977
  10. CMU Tech up to $21,050
  11. Western Colorado University up to $43,000

Metropolitan State University of Denver will utilize the funds to provide student stipends to complete the Credit-by-Exam portion of a stackable course (from noncredit to credit); faculty stipends to develop high-quality stackable credential courses; and support a new micro-credential badging software system called Credly.

“This work provides affordable new entry points into high-demand fields that begin with a noncredit course which can then stack into MSU Denver credit courses, certificates and degrees,” said Terry Bower, director, innovative learning at MSU Denver.

To provide more educational on-ramps and off-ramps for students, MSU Denver’s Innovative & Lifelong Learning team created a stackable credential program, called Career Launchpad, which seamlessly stacks a noncredit class to a credit class which then leads to multiple academic and career pathways. It maps out these academic and career pathways for potential students on the front end so that students better understand the opportunities and potential salaries within various fields.  By offering low-risk, affordable ways to test out various disciplines, MSU Denver has created a new entry point into higher education as well as a new pipeline to degrees and credentials.

Get Involved 
CDHE hosts monthly Industry Specific Stackable Credential Pathways Leadership team meetings in behavioral health, cybersecurity, education, healthcare and software development. If you are interested in engaging in the buildout of more navigable stackable credential pathways, please complete the Participant Recommendation form. To learn more, visit