State leaders Tuesday unveiled the “Colorado Challenge,” an effort to improve college completion rates, starting with 2,500 “underrepresented” students who will receive extra support as they move through college.

“We wouldn’t call it a challenge if it were easy,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a Capitol news conference. “We are creating a college completion pilot program that will serve as a model for others and help to build our state’s highly-skilled workforce.”

Underrepresented students, higher ed jargon for minorities, low-income students and those who are the first in their families to attend college, have lower completion rates than college students as a whole. Some 57 percent of all students graduate within six years, while only 32 percent of underrepresented students graduate from four-year institutions within six years.

The program will be available at Adams State University in Alamosa, the Colorado State University campuses in Fort Collins and Pueblo and Metropolitan State University in Denver.

The $5 million pilot effort will serve two groups of 2,500 total students and follow each group through four years of college. Parts of the program will include one-on-one advising and a transition program between high school and college. Participating colleges are encouraged to use such tactics as block scheduling for working students and grouping pilot students in one or more courses.

The Daniels Fund and the Denver Scholarship Foundation, which both provide financial aid to low-income students, are participating in the program, along with GEAR UP, a Department of Higher Education agency that works with high school students and counselors to encourage college attendance.

Get more information in this news release.