Published: May 10, 2016

By Sally Boelens

Trying to find public higher education in the early 1960s was a troubling task. Despite the number of private colleges located near the core of Denver, there was practically no affordable option for residents who could not afford to leave home or needed to balance school with work while supporting families. This lack of educational opportunity became a growing concern of Colorado’s legislature at the end of the 1950s. The existing institutions’ inability to accommodate part-time students, combined with an increase in the prospective student population as a result of the baby booms, made it evident that Colorado residents and businesses alike could truly benefit
from additional higher educational institutions.

photo of students signing up at MSU

Picture Metropolitan State University's first registration in 1965.  Photo courtesy of Metropolitan State University of Denver official website


Metropolitan State University of Denver

The Metropolitan State University of Denver was the first state-supported, four-year degree-granting university that would offer low-tuition, commuter-friendly options, and an open door admissions policy. The university officially opened in the fall of 1965 welcoming 1,189 students, but the rate of attendance was growing by 1,000 students a year and their current accommodations could not support the projected growth.

Find out more about Metropolitan State University





Students at CU Denver in early 1970s

University of Colorado at Denver Picture Students standing outside of the old Tramway building in 1965. Photo courtesy of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni webpage.

The University of Colorado Denver     

The University of Colorado Denver shuffled from home to home after opening in 1912. By the late 1950s, the University was just recently authorized to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees but was still operating out of a renovated eight-story office tower and car barn previously known as the Denver Tramway Company. By the time the 1970s approached, the Tramway building was in serious need of renovation and the University of Colorado Denver student base was quickly outgrowing the space.  

Find out more about the University of Colorado at Denver



Community College of Denver

The Community College of Denver opened its doors in 1968. Prior to the Auraria campus, CCD was holding classes in two locations. One at 62nd and Downing, and another more centralized location in a former Kumpf Lincoln-Mercury Motor Showroom off of 11th and Acoma Street. Like Metro State College and the University of Colorado at Denver, they too were quickly outgrowing their space.

Find out more about the Community College of Denver