A housing initiative in Southern Colorado
Communities in Southeast Colorado have long faced challenges with blighted housing and shortages on available housing stock. This housing shortage is largely due to the age of houses and the lack of appropriately trained labor in the area. Many of these houses were constructed before 1990, and a large percentage of those were constructed before 1939. Because the cost to repair, rebuild, or renovate the houses often exceeds their resale value, many commercial homebuilders will not build in the area.
That is why Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a new grant program in the Office of Community Engagement designed to both revitalize rural housing and support construction training programs at community colleges in Southeast Colorado.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, as part of its new Colorado Partnership for Education and Rural Revitalization (COPERR), announced in 2020 grants of up to $5 million to Trinidad State College and Lamar Community College to develop skilled trades programs that will address labor shortages and increase the availability of viable and affordable housing in southern Colorado. In February 2023, the office announced an expansion of the program to include a new trades program at Pueblo Corporate College, a division of Pueblo Community College, and expanded programs at Trinidad State College and Lamar Community College. In November 2023, the program expanded to Otero College.
Check back here for updates on COPERR and its continued progress.
Learn more about the colleges
Pueblo Corporate College (PCC), a division of Pueblo Community College, will receive over $417,000 to initiate its COPERR program. In partnership with non-profit organizations in PCC’s service area, the PCC COPERR curriculum stresses a balance of classroom, technical, and hands-on learning within the context of the industry’s current practices. After completing the program, students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in the trade skills, including instruction in equipment and safety; blueprint reading; construction math skills; measurements; and framing. Students also gain information about the construction industry and how to seek employment and receive connections to mentors and community resources through classroom presenters and field trips.
“Pueblo Community College is pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the attorney general and his COPERR project,” said PCC President Patty Erjavec. “Not only does this initiative give us the opportunity to enrich the lives of those interested in acquiring skills and competencies in the construction trades, but we are humbled to play a part in the revitalization of blighted neighborhoods in the communities we serve.”
“We are excited for the opportunity to expand construction training across our service area,” said Amanda Corum, executive director of Pueblo Corporate College, a division of Pueblo Community College. “We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with nonprofit organizations that will help to provide the hands-on training experience for our students while addressing blighted housing in our communities.”
Located on the golden plains of Southeast Colorado, Lamar Community College is focused on the educational needs of Prowers, Baca, Kiowa, and Cheyenne Counties. Yet its unique programs, NJCAA/NIRA athletics, small class sizes, dedicated staff, innovative spirit, and idyllic setting also make it a destination college for students of all ages from across Colorado, the nation, and the world.
Lamar Community College (LCC) will receive additional grant funding to expand its programming to include high school students at two remote high school locations located in the northern and southern parts of LCC’s service area. LCC will use two mobile classroom trailers to work directly with high schools in each region, with the goal of either creating a pipeline for students into college or the ability to seek employment utilizing the knowledge they gain through COPERR courses. LCC anticipates completing six renovation projects with at least three renovations outside the city of Lamar, but within LCC’s service area. As of December 2022, the total grant amount for the college is $1.46 million.
“From the very beginning of this outstanding project, the attorney general and his team have recognized the importance of rural colleges working to solve rural problems, like substandard housing,” said retiring LCC president, Dr. Linda Lujan. “LCC is so appreciative of the funding, support, and trust placed in us through this grant and is excited to expand opportunities to other areas of Southeast Colorado as the college engages high school students in more remote areas in the construction trades program. It’s a win for students, communities, the college, and Colorado.”
“From my view as vice president of instructional service,” said Larry McLemore of LCC, “I see the COPERR grant opportunity as far reaching and critical in the LCC mission. As we redefine our responsibilities to our service area post pandemic, I see the innovation present in this grant as the model of what is possible for all areas of instruction. Not only serving the immediate need in housing infrastructure, the COPERR grant will set the example of how LCC meets the needs of our rural communities.”
“To me the COPERR program brings so much growth to Lamar and Southeastern Colorado,” said Jake Specht, construction trades instructor. “Students who may not have otherwise attended higher education are learning valuable skills in a program that suits them, all while also rebuilding our community. Watching the students grow and the progress of rebuilding homes has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve been a part of. It is exciting to thing of what the future holds for both COPERR and the LCC Construction Trades program.”
Learn more here: Lamar Community College (LCC).
Established in 1925, Trinidad State College was the first community college in Colorado. With campuses in Trinidad and Alamosa, Colorado, the school provides an affordable and accessible education to students in southern Colorado and beyond.
Trinidad State College (TSC) was part of the first grant announcement in 2020 and welcomed its first group of students to its COPERR construction class in March of 2021. As part of the grant expansion, TSC will receive additional funding to expand COPERR programming to its Valley Campus, located in Alamosa. Students spend their mornings in class and their afternoons at the job site and will receive a stipend and experiential learning credits for their work on the jobsite. As of November 2022, the total grant amount for the college is $2.76 million.
“We’re looking forward to bringing our successful Construction Trades program to the TSC Valley Campus,” said Dr. Rhonda Epper, president of TSC. “It’s a win-win program that meets workforce needs while also bringing blighted houses back to life and making our communities more livable. This investment is just the boost we need to help train more construction workers while addressing blighted housing in Alamosa County and surrounding communities.”
Learn more, or register, at trinidadstate.edu/construction.
“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.