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High School and College Age Students Eligible to Earn College Credits and Pay for Open Sky Using College Savings

The Open Sky Team

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is excited to partner with Western Colorado University to offer a unique opportunity for students enrolled in our adolescent and young adult programs. High school and college age students may now earn college credits while at Open Sky as well as use college savings to pay for their treatment and education.

“The pressures on young people today are extraordinary. Due to challenges with mental health, substance use, or independent living, many of our students have had to take a break from school or delay the next steps of their lives,” said Dr. Melia Snyder, Education Director for Open Sky. “Now, they no longer have to choose between academics and seeking treatment. Through this partnership, students have the chance to integrate their education with their therapeutic process.”

A group of students at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy sit near one another while quietly writing in notebooks.

Earn College Credits at Open Sky

High school and college age students who elect to incorporate academics into their Open Sky experience begin by taking Nature and the Human Psyche, a psychology course developed by Dr. Snyder. The course’s robust curriculum is specifically designed to align with the trajectory of students’ therapeutic work and deepen their experience in wilderness. Through independent study, group engagement, and experiential learning, students strengthen their core capacity for attention, curiosity, awareness, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and connection.

“Open Sky has developed a thorough and thoughtful curriculum to accompany their program,” said Kirky Swift, director of Western Colorado University’s Extended Studies Program. “We have been impressed with the quality and depth of their course materials, which will provide an enriching academic experience for their students.”

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy students can earn college credits from Western Colorado University, a small, public school in Gunnison, Colorado.

Upon successful completion of the course, students earn three college credits from Western Colorado University, a small public university located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Gunnison, Colorado. Powered by a passion for promoting intellectual maturity and personal growth, Western Colorado University’s mission is congruent with that of Open Sky.

“We are thrilled to partner with Western Colorado University to empower students to achieve their full potential through rich educational opportunities and immersive experiences,” said Dr. Snyder.

Reimbursing Program Expenses

By enrolling in this Western Colorado University course, Open Sky students and families may elect to apply college savings toward both treatment and education. When registered for three credit hours, families can use funds from 529 plans to pay for treatment at Open Sky and for Western Colorado University course credits. We encourage families to reach out to their 529 plan administrator to confirm eligibility for reimbursement of both the Western Colorado University course credit fees and the Open Sky program fees.

“At Open Sky, we recognize the power we hold as educators to help guide the learning and lives of the students we serve,” said Dr. Snyder. “We believe in educating the whole person—body, mind, heart, and spirit—in order to prepare our young people to navigate unique and urgent challenges and to positively contribute to society.”

For more information about college credits at Open Sky and the process for using a 529 plan to pay for treatment, please check out our free guide below or contact

529 Guide graphic

November 14th, 2022

The Open Sky Team