Education is important to the state of Colorado and to Denver, and it shows. In fact, metro Denver has one of the highest per-capita education levels in the country. Consider that, of metro Denver’s adult population, 38 percent are college graduates and 89.6 percent have graduated from high school—a testament that area residents value education and learning.

The region’s K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities are well situated to prepare students for an ever-changing work environment. Metro Denver’s high school graduation rate was more than 73 percent in 2009, and the completion rate – which includes students who participated in GED programs – was 77.6 percent.

The city’s educational roots started in 1859, when the first private school was established and when the city was first founded. The new territorial government formed two public school districts that opened in 1862, providing the foundation for the 19 highly rated metro Denver public school districts that serve approximately 428,000 area children today.

Quality Denver Public School Education

The seven-county metro Denver area is home to 6 major school districts—Adams County, Arapahoe County, Boulder County, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.

Public school K-12 education in Denver revolves around choice, with both public and private schools offering many educational options for primary and secondary students. The K-12 education system includes 19 public school districts and a number of private and parochial school systems.

Students can also choose from charter and magnet schools, international baccalaureate programs, and Montessori and English Primary schools. In the case of charter schools, individuals and organizations in Colorado can establish their own schools and curricula to meet special needs within established school districts. These charter schools are approved by local school districts and receive funding from the local district and the state of Colorado.

All metro Denver public schools offer open enrollment, which allows students to attend school in the district of their choice. This flexibility helps parents select schools that match each student’s individual needs. See the Public Schools listings for more information and resources.

Denver K-12 Private Schools

Metro Denver has a large selection of nonpublic private, parochial and independent schools for pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through the 12th grade. These schools offer traditional classroom settings, innovative learning centers, accelerated programs and special preparatory classes for college-bound students. Most schools offer financial aid.

The Colorado Department of Education website ( lists these schools and provides some statistical information. CDE does not accredit private schools; however, accreditation by other organizations is recognized. The Association of Colorado Independent Schools ( accredits, supports and promotes independent schools in Colorado.

Although Denver has excellent private schools, overall enrollment is low because the region offers so many high-quality public school options. About 10 percent of metro Denver’s total student population attended private schools in the 2009 school year. See the Private Schools listings for more information and resources.

A Long History of Higher Education

Higher education has quite a long history in Denver, and the city is home to some of the oldest universities in the western United States. For example, the University of Denver, established in 1864, is the oldest independent university in the Rocky Mountain region. Other universities established in the 19th century include: Colorado State University (1870); Colorado School of Mines (1874); University of Colorado at Boulder (1876); and Regis University (1877).

Today, there are approximately 142,200 Denver students enrolled in four-year educational programs throughout the region, and Denver is home to 12 four-year public and private colleges and universities. The area’s community colleges have more than 20 campuses, and there are more than 60 vocational and technical schools in the region, providing a large network of workforce training and educational services to meet the training and employment needs of both students and area businesses.

A number of smaller colleges and technical and vocational schools with specialized programs also offer a variety of educational opportunities. For example, the Auraria Higher Education Center, adjacent to downtown Denver, has the largest concentration of students in metro Denver. The University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State College, and the Community College of Denver share the 127-acre campus and serve more than 51,000 students.

Something for everyone in Denver!

No matter what your educational preference, there’s something for everyone in the family with Denver’s comprehensive offering of great public schools, quality private schools, alternative educational opportunities with homeschooling and charter schools, and a huge selection of higher education, technical and vocational options. Welcome to Denver!