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By midnight on Oct. 1, 1965, 1,189 students had enrolled at MSU Denver, then known as Metropolitan State College, nearly double the number expected. Thirty-six faculty and staff members were ready when classes began on Oct. 4.
The idea for a new, different type of college had germinated four years earlier in a legislative task force on education beyond high school chaired by State Rep. Roy Romer ? later considered to be the “father” of MSU Denver. The task force solicited the opinion of area businesses about their expected workforce needs in the coming decade. The shocking consensus was that area colleges were producing less than half of the skilled workers that would be necessary.
Fast forward through years of intense, sometimes nasty debate, and on May 2, 1965, legislators passed a state budget that had a $750,000 appropriation for MSU Denver. Romer wanted to see a “street-smart kind of school,” one where students would “rise or fall by their own wits.” One year later, in 1962, the task force recommended the opening of a four-year college that would admit anyone with a high school diploma or GED.
The then-college was envisioned as an urban vocational school with two-year and general education programs. But with more than 75 percent of those 1,189 enrolled students saying they hoped to eventually earn a four-year degree, the stage was set for MSU Denver’s evolution into a baccalaureate institution.