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Officials Deny Legalized Pot Played Role In Colo. College Applications Surge

Several Colorado college officials have denied the widely spread claim that the reason college applications in the state have been on the rise is because its residents can legally smoke marijuana – allegedly prompting kids to want to flock to the Centennial State.

In reality, campus officials said, the surge can be traced to a new streamlined college application program, and also they’ve been experiencing a growth in applications for a few years now. What’s more, they point out, the new law is only applicable to those over 21.

The University of Colorado system’s director of admissions Kevin MacLennan told High Times a spike in applications can be traced to the implementation of a standardized statewide application system used by prospective students to apply to several schools at one time. Nearly 500 schools now accept the Common Application.

High Times, a Colorado-based pro-pot publication, has made the claim that out-of-state applications for Colorado universities surged due to the legalization of marijuana.

And make no mistake, Colorado appears to be a popular place to go to college.

The national trend shows college application numbers are down, yet Colorado remains an outlier. For example, the University of Colorado-Boulder, often in the media for its massive annual 4/20 pot celebration, has had a 30 percent increase in applications since the passage of Amendment 64.

For 2013, MacLennan told the Boulder Daily Camera that out-of-state applications were up 33 percent, while in state applications went up roughly 5 percent.

Meanwhile, a Colorado Springs-based liberal arts college, Colorado College, is also experiencing a boom in applications. But Vice President of Enrollment Mark Hatch told The College Fix that this year is actually part of a larger trend for the school. It has had an increasing rate of applications for the past several years.

“This year is no different, and there is no evidence that our increase (is tied) to Amendment 64,” Hatch said.

Leslie Weddell, news director for Colorado College, added that a majority of the student population at the school is under the age of 21, and Colorado law only removes criminal penalties for those using marijuana over the age of 21.

“Regardless, Colorado College’s policy on marijuana remains unchanged despite the passing of Amendment 64: The college does not allow the use of marijuana, whether on campus or off campus,” she said in an email. “Colorado College is dedicated to providing the finest liberal arts education in the country and we believe that marijuana use conflicts with this mission.”

Additionally, recreational shops are not permitted in Colorado Springs. Users would have to commute to Pueblo, some 35 miles south of the city, or Denver, to get their fix. Weddell said the strict regulation of the drug and limited access is another factor in the claim being false.

But High Times writer Russ Belville is still unconvinced.

“I don’t doubt those university officials saying they’ve had increases for a while – sure, because since 2009, you can get medmj (medical marijuana) at a dispensary in Colorado,” he told The College Fix in an email.

In the end, the picture is a muddled one.

CU-Boulder only accepted 5,472 of 18,172 applicants in fall 2012. And for the third consecutive year, the CU Boulder campus will also be closed on 4-20, a day in the past in which students have converged for a campus-wide pot-smoking festival.

But for Colorado State University-Pueblo the enrollment story is different, even though it’s located in a county that permits recreational pot shops. The university has eliminated 22 filled positions and is trying to balance a budget with a deficit of $3.3 million due to low enrollment.

College Fix contributor Kara Mason is a student at Colorado State University – Pueblo.

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IMAGE: Scott Beale/Flickr

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