Otero College is joining the Colorado Partnership for Education and Rural Revitalization
Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the expansion of the Colorado Partnership for Education and Rural Revitalization (COPERR) will include Otero College, marking another step forward in addressing rural housing challenges in southern Colorado. The college, located in La Junta, was awarded more than $400,000 in grant funds for its community revitalization program.
"The inclusion of Otero College in COPERR is a testament to our commitment to addressing the housing challenges faced by southern Colorado communities. We are dedicated to revitalizing rural housing and providing education and training opportunities in the construction field. Together with Otero College, we will make a significant impact in this region," explained Weiser.
For years, communities in southern Colorado have grappled with issues related to blighted housing and a shortage of available housing stock. The housing crisis is a result of aging properties and a lack of adequately trained labor in the region to renovate and revitalize deteriorating homes.
In response to these challenges, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office initiated the COPERR program in 2020, committing $5 million in grants to promote rural housing revitalization and support construction training programs at local colleges in southeastern Colorado. Originally implemented at Trinidad State College and Lamar Community College, Otero College joins Pueblo Corporate College, a division of Pueblo Community College, in launching their respective programs within the past year.
Otero College Construction Program
“Otero College is pleased to announce the launch of their COPERR Grant agreement. We are excited to be a partner with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to establish a community revitalization project in southeastern Colorado,” said Otero College President Kimberly Zant, Ed.D.
Otero College has developed a 16-credit hour construction program based on National Center for Construction Education and Research core curriculum through which students can earn an industry certification. The focus of the program is providing workforce training that focuses on developing skilled workers in the construction and remediation trades.
Zant was proud to add that, “The Otero College construction program has started its first revitalization project.”
That first project is remodeling the South Site housing facility, a blighted property for which the college has a 10-year lease with the city of La Junta. South Site is an eight-unit, 16-bedroom complex that can accommodate up to 32 tenants located 1.5 miles south of the Otero campus and will address a lack of student housing for students, instructors, and other employees relocating to the area. Otero College anticipates completing the renovation of South Site before the end of fiscal year 2025.
The COPERR program is funded through funds the state received from the national mortgage settlement reached in 2012 when 49 states sued mortgage servicers after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the launch of this program, none of the funds obtained in this 2012 settlement were used in southeastern Colorado.
The students participating in COPERR pay tuition for the workforce training courses but receive a stipend upon completion of their work. Students may also be eligible for free tuition this year through House Bill 23-1246, which is aimed at addressing workforce demands in various industries, including construction. Some of the participating colleges have already completed renovations, sold properties back to the community, and reinvested the proceeds back into COPERR.