A partnership is forming between Arapahoe Community College, Colorado State University and the Douglas County School District to create a higher-education campus in Castle Rock.
The project is still in the planning stages and a location has not been determined.
The collaboration aims to create an educational environment that will provide local high school students with a chance for concurrent enrollment for college credit, as well as provide further higher education for adults.
"The educational system is now catching up with the population of learners," said Kathay Rennels, associate vice president for engagement at CSU. "You no longer have to leave where you are and come to Fort Collins to get a higher education. You can continue your education wherever you are."
Rennels said, to her knowledge, it is the first collaboration of its kind in the state. She said Castle Rock, with a population of about 60,000, has been targeted for the campus because of its growing population and accessibility from other areas along I-25.
Rennels said the idea is to look at education as a continuous ecosystem rather than levels of achievement one passes through.
"We also see this as an opportunity for older learners to continue their education or be retrained in a new field in a way that fits into their lives."
Arapahoe Community College has campuses in Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock.
ACC President Diana Doyle said the community college has taken the lead in bringing the program together. ACC already has concurrent enrollment relationships in place with the Douglas County School District and CSU. Doyle said the goal is to "create seamless pathways" for students to move through their education.
A student enrolled in the new program would have the opportunity to move directly through high school, to the community college level and then eventually graduate with a degree from CSU without ever leaving Douglas County.
School district officials said they were excited at the prospect of expanding their relationship with higher education and to provide more options for students.
"We have always appreciated our strong partnership with Arapahoe Community College, which has afforded numerous concurrent enrollment courses to our students and families," DCSD Assistant Superintendent Steve Cook said in an emailed statement. "Expanding on this collaboration, and including CSU, we together will provide even more opportunities for our students in the future."
She added the program will incorporate local businesses.
"Our hope is to bring in local businesses and entrepreneurs into the fold to give students real-world experiences in their fields," Doyle said.
Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce President Pam Ridler said higher education has been “the missing piece” that will allow the town to be a self-sustaining community.
“This will assist us in keeping our younger population to stay in Castle Rock after high school and should assist our retail and service industries in (keeping up) with their need for employees,” Ridler said. “The campus at this time is planning to focus on healthcare, IT and entrepreneurial programing.”
Doyle said more details on the collaboration should be available in early 2017.