Outdoor Education: A Wealth of Knowledge as Well as Funds

From Block Break trips to weekend excursions, free time at CC—though incredibly rewarding and relieving—can quickly become a costly burden. For many students, this free time is spent in the wilderness on personal adventures or through school-affiliated trips. Regardless of the type of trip, however, when it comes to the outdoors, “like a lot of extracurricular activities, hobbies or interests, money is a huge barrier for people,” said Grace Brofman, Outdoor Education and Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Coordinator. That being said, she asserted that “just like an education, access to the outdoors shouldn’t be reserved for just the people who can afford to pay for it.” This mentality is precisely what has driven the Outdoor Education Center’s efforts to expand financial aid offerings, especially in the last three years.

There are two categories of funds available for students’ various outdoor endeavors. The first is the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, which provides money for student expeditions and the educational courses needed for those expeditions, with an annual budget that fluctuates but has $10,000 exclusively for education grants.  The Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) provides the second category of available funding, and this category consists of a budget of $10,000 that is distributed amongst the various needs of Outdoor Education participants.

Some funding goes directly towards subsidizing trips like the Aspen Bike Trip or the winter hut trips, as well as some of the Level II trainings. The remaining available financial aid resides mainly in trip-by-trip grants, providing a 50 percent discount for a particular program or Wilderness First Responder certification. Thanks to additional funds this year, there will now be full ride-scholarships available for Wilderness First Responder certifications as well.

One of the most recent financial aid opportunities as of the 2014-2015 school year is the Outdoor Education Scholar program. This offers four to six students the opportunity to receive 75 percent off all OE certification and leadership courses of their choosing. Although the scholarship is only for one year, it promotes a progression through leadership positions, and this allows for not only free trips in the future but also a feedback loop of shared knowledge and experience. Of the six scholars from last year, five have become Level II or III leaders and some in multiple disciplines. Equally encouraging, Brofman noted, “We are definitely able to see, I think, a more varied population applying for trips and things like WFR because there is the availability of 50 percent off.”

Outdoor Education at CC is one of the best in the nation, offering a plethora of learning, leadership, and skill-building opportunities. Furthermore, the program meets the gear demands of everything from kayaking to ice climbing. To put the power of the OE Center in perspective, the skills and instruction received through the Ski Instructor Level III certification track would cost upwards of $2,000 including gear if done entirely through independent or nationally recognized programs. At CC, thanks to the amazing opportunities and subsidies provided by Outdoor Education, the cost can be reduced 85 percent. Even renting snowshoes or skis for an entire week from the Gear House costs less than buying a spork at REI.

Not only is the Outdoor Education program focused on individual growth and cultivating a love of nature, it is also to a certain extent another facet of a liberal arts education that can provide professional as well as personal skills. Besides outdoor-specific employers, who recognize the high quality of CC Outdoor Education, most employers can see value in the teamwork, perseverance, and some problem-solving capabilities that these outdoor experiences foster.

This investment, which, thanks to these programs is very minimal, is one well worth exploring, and as Brofman points out, “there is no ‘SUMMIT’ of the real world offering these awesome trips for pennies, so this is the time to try all of those things.”

All of the aid offered through Outdoor Education is open for anyone to apply for, and although financial need is a consideration, it is not the sole determining factor in distributing aid.  All students are encouraged to apply and specific questions can be directed to Grace Brofman. With countless outdoor opportunities at CC, it’s worthwhile to get outside and explore the beautiful southwest; Outdoor Education will strive to always make these goals logistically and financially feasible.

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