AIMS: A community college with community in mind

GREELEY – When Aims Community College was founded in 1967, it started with a promise to provide an affordable education to students in central Weld County.

Little has changed in 40 years except for Aims’ growing commitment to students throughout Northern Colorado as opposed to just Weld County.

Aims has kept its promise of affordable education and made it easier for students to take classes by opening new campuses in Fort Lupton and Loveland. The college also keeps a close watch on what’s happening around the area in terms of community growth and employment.

“We concentrate on a regional approach within a 50-mile radius,” said Marsi Liddell, president of Aims Community College.

What this means for students is more convenient locations and a curriculum that reflects and supports the employment trends in the region.

For its commitment to providing affordable training courses to students and a reliable pool of educated workers for Northern Colorado businesses Aims Community College is the recipient of the Northern Colorado Business Report’s Regional Spirit Award 2007.

In response to the growing shortage of nurses throughout the United States, Aims administrators talked to local hospitals to determine labor needs and made sure the nursing courses Aims offers match up with the needs at area hospitals.

“We try to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Liddell.

That proactive approach has its benefits. Students now have a choice of over 120 programs and 2,000 courses, and Aims is just one of two community colleges in the state that grew in enrollment, including a small but still growing enrollment of international students taking online coursework.

“I think programs that are attractive to students will bring students in,” said Liddell.

Having the second lowest tuition for a community college in the state probably helps, too.

Full classes and a full curriculum do not mean Aims is without struggle. With just 19 cents for every education dollar going to community colleges there is the challenge of having enough resources to accommodate the demand by students, Liddell said. Funding shortfalls have led to a waiting list of multiple years for some programs.

To address this issue Aims has secured land for a new campus along the Interstate-25 corridor in Berthoud. Expected to open in three to five years, the new campus will serve the Johnstown, Milliken, Berthoud, Mead and Loveland communities. Aims also is looking to add classes that would let students work with fuel-cell and hybrid vehicle technologies – classes with impacts well beyond Northern Colorado’s boundaries.