Supporting Colorado Students: Opportunity Next Connects Class of 2024 to Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

Offering career guidance services and scholarships of up to $1,500 to the class of 2024

DENVER – Today, Governor Polis and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced Opportunity Next Colorado to increase enrollment in Colorado-based postsecondary education and training programs. This program will provide one-time scholarships and career advising to the class of 2024, with an emphasis on connecting high school graduates to in-demand careers.

“Colorado leads the nation in college degrees and programs like Opportunity Next will help us continue to provide students with opportunities that lead to promising careers in attractive and high-demand industries. I am proud to remove barriers to education and post-secondary training, strengthening our workforce and economy. These scholarships will help the class of 2024 further their education, gain more experience, and get good-paying jobs,” Said Governor Polis

Enacted by SB23-205, sponsored by Senators Jeff Bridges and Paul Lundeen and Representatives Matthew Martinez and Don Wilson, Opportunity Next Colorado seeks to provide scholarships of up to $1,500 to more than 14,000 Coloradans from the class of 2024. The program will also provide guidance on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and college applications; group coaching over the summer to prevent the drop-off of enrolled postsecondary students known as “summer melt;” and advising to students who have not enrolled in a postsecondary pathway by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. Priority will be placed on serving students in school districts with below-average FAFSA completion and postsecondary enrollment rates as well as promoting career opportunities in high-priority industries with a demonstrated need for workers.

“As a state, we have more than two open jobs for every unemployed person. Through Opportunity Next, we can help train students in the class of 2024 for in-demand, good-paying jobs while also strengthening high-priority industries that are key to Colorado's leading economy,” said OEDIT Executive Director Eve Lieberman.

The one-time scholarship of up to $1,500 can be applied to tuition, fees, books and equipment. Funding will be awarded by pre-approved scholarship administrators from colleges and community colleges, as well as registered apprenticeship programs and eligible training providers. All scholarship administrators are required to provide at least one program aligned with what have been identified as high-priority industries in Colorado: 

Advanced Manufacturing
Computer & Information Sciences
Engineering & Technology
Family & Social Sciences
Health Professions

“We are still not seeing as many learners pursuing education or training after high school that lead to an in-demand career, and the state is working to reverse this trend. We are excited to support the work of Opportunity Next by helping to remove financial barriers and introduce students to new educational opportunities. This program is designed to help students discover industries that may not already be on their radar, and outline both the short and long term pathways to gaining those in-demand skills,” said Dr. Sarah Heath, Associate Vice Chancellor for Career and Technical Education at the Colorado Community College System. 

Class of 2024 students can explore Opportunity Next resources at a newly launched website, The website has been designed as a career exploration and advising platform, showcasing Colorado’s fast-growing industries as well as related education and training programs across the state that will provide Opportunity Next scholarships. 

“Opportunity is a core Colorado value, and every Coloradan should have the opportunity to earn a good life," said Senator Jeff Bridges, D-Arapahoe County. "That opportunity often starts with a good education, one that's aligned with good-paying jobs in a person's community. Making sure that what schools teach matches what businesses need is exactly what the Opportunity Now grant does, leading to better wages for workers, a well-trained workforce for our employers, and a stronger Colorado economy for everyone."

“Through Opportunity Next, we continue to provide Coloradans with resources to get the training and education they need to earn a living and fill jobs across the state. That’s a win for Coloradans, for our economy, and for our businesses," said Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R- Monument.

“Colorado students who want to pursue higher education or technical jobs often face financial barriers to developing the skills they need to access in-demand jobs. Opportunity Next provides financial support and career guidance that will help more Coloradans pursue their dreams,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Monte Vista). 

“By providing scholarships and guidance to Colorado students through Opportunity Next, we are investing in their futures, creating a stronger Colorado, and meeting the needs of our businesses,” said Representative Don Wilson (R-Monument).

A total of $21 million in scholarship funding is available through Opportunity Next Colorado. To date, 30 Colorado universities, colleges and community colleges have been selected to distribute Opportunity Next scholarships during their enrollment processes. The application for registered apprenticeship programs, eligible training providers and technical colleges will be live March 11 through April 15.
Opportunity Next is one of two OEDIT-affiliated programs designed to connect Coloradans to in-demand careers, including industries that will support the growth of the newly recognized Elevate Quantum Tech Hub and the Colorado-Wyoming Climate Resilience Engine. Opportunity Now Colorado, which launched in 2023, is supporting the creation and expansion of innovative workforce and talent development initiatives across the state. The first 46 Opportunity Now grant recipients collectively serve all 14 regions of Colorado, from the Central Plains and Southeast Colorado to Region 10 and the Northwest. They are projected to serve 8,000 Coloradans, while the program as a whole is expected to place 20,000 in jobs.

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