"I was competing for jobs with people that are a lot more qualified than I was," Magno said. "So, I wanted to come back to school and sharpen my brain again."
Magno enrolled in the Community College of Denver to study photography with hopes of opening his own studio one day. He is not alone in his dreams. Over the past four years, enrollment at community colleges around Colorado has grown 40 percent. Many of them are people who lost their jobs, re-training towards a new career.
"We are providing career enhancement, skill training, and the first step, the first pathway to higher education," said. Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, said.
McCallin says the system charged a consultant group, Economic Modeling Specialists, to conduct an economic impact study of all 13 community colleges around the state.
"What is our rate of return and if we don't have a good rate of return, how we improve on that? What is our value?" McCallin said.
The results show that the community college system serves 162,000 students statewide. If you look at the value of what they produce after leaving school and the increased output of businesses due to a highly-trained workforce, the impact every year is more than $3.01 billion, according to the study.
"To put that in perspective, that would be equal to creating almost 56,000 jobs at today's average annual salaries," McCallin said.
The study shows that out of the $107 million allocated to community colleges by the state, taxpayers get a return of about $1.70 for every dollar spent.
"It has a very large impact at a time when nationally and within the state, the economy has been trying to recover from a recession," McCallin said.
Even though the study does not include the University of Colorado or Colorado State University systems, McCallin believes that the sheer numbers alone show that the community colleges can have as a big an impact on the economy as the big four-year colleges.
"When you're the largest system and have been the largest system of higher education in the last eight years, you're definitely going to be one of the top - if not the top - players in the economy," McCallin said.
Magno hopes to live that example after graduating from the Community College of Denver.
"A lot of people here, you can tell a lot of them are trying to start a new avenue in their life," Magno said. "I think it does give them the option to start something new."
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)