COLORADO WESTERN SLOPE COLLEGE FAIR
Welcome to the Colorado Western Slope College Fair, a unique fair attracting high school students from 27 of the 63 counties in Colorado. The Western Slope is a unique geographic area stretching from the Continental Divide to the Utah border. The 27 counties from which the College Fair participants come cover approximately 47,174 square miles, an area larger in size than the entire state of Pennsylvania. The Western Slope is much less densely populated than the eastern portion of Colorado with only a few towns having populations in excess of 5,000, and its largest city, Grand Junction in Mesa County, having a total population of only 59,899. The primary economic activities in the area are ranching, fruit growing, mining and tourism. The geography of the Western Slope ranges from the high mountain areas of Aspen, Crested Butte, Gunnison and Durango to the semi-arid canyon land surrounding Grand Junction to the high country sheep ranches of Meeker and Rangely.
The students invited to the College Fair are as diverse as the Western Slope landscape. In 2010 the number of students attending public school in each of the 27 invited counties ranged from a total of 22,698 in Mesa County (Grand Junction area) to only 65 students in all of San Juan County (county population 699). In the aggregate in 2010, the 27 counties educated a total of 89,199 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. This equals approximately the same number of students attending school in the Albuquerque, New Mexico school district but covers a geographic area that is over 260 times as large. Mesa County, the most populous county, has a total 6.82 students per square mile while Hinsdale County has only .09 students per square mile. Of the 89,199 students in the 27 county area, 25,878 or 29.01 percent were Hispanic with the highest percentage of Hispanic students occurring in Lake County with 70.12 percent of its student population being Hispanic. The Western Slope also has a strong Native American presence with 2,129 or 2.39 percent of its students being of Native American heritage. Montezuma County in the southwestern corner of the State had the highest percentage of Native American students with 20.59 percent of its student body being Native American. Neighboring La Plata County also had a significant percentage of Native Americans with 7.23 percent of its student body being Native American.
The students’ interest in and commitment to the Colorado Western Slope College Fair is notable with many students traveling long distances to attend. Those students coming from Mancos in Montezuma County have traveled 272 miles and six hours to reach the Fair. Those from Rangely in Rio Blanco County have traveled three hours and 162 miles. Those from Sanford in Conejos County have traveled 282 miles and 5 ½ hours and while on a beautiful summer day those traveling from Crested Butte could hike the 25 miles over the mountains to Aspen, the impassable mountain terrain requires a roundabout, 4 ½ hour 203 mile drive.