About Colorado Free University

Offering classes to enrich your life and fuel your personal and professional growth.


Colorado Free University is a lifelong learning center offering a wide array of skill-building and enrichment courses.  More of a learning network than a traditional school, CFU draws its teachers from the community and all teachers are independent contractors.  Classes are designed for busy adults who want to get useful information or new skills without having to commit a great amount of time.  

Classes are offered online and in person in Denver. Courses are offered in the following areas:

  • Spanish Center
  • Computer Training
  • Business, Careers, & Nonprofit Administration
  • Finance, & Real Estate
  • Creativity & the Arts
  • Personal Development & Communication
  • Leisure & Enrichment


Colorado Free University has old roots but new applications.  The Free University originally grew out of the free speech movement of the early ‘70’s with a mission to make education more egalitarian.  The “Free” in Free University comes from the belief that there should not be barriers to learning or sharing knowledge and that students should have the freedom to choose what they want to learn.  The first Free University in Denver, Denver Free University, opened in 1969 and ran until 1986. In the 70’s and 80’s there were many Free Universities around the country. While there is tuition for classes, there are no restrictions on who can take classes or requirements for participation.


In 1987, after Denver Free University folded, John Hand founded Colorado Free University with less of a political and more of a community mission.  John believed that communities have within them the resources to solve their own problems.  For any need or problem a person might have, someone else in the community has an answer or solution.  CFU brings those people together.  Only a handful of independent, free-standing schools such as CFU are still in operation around the country.

In March of 2004 founder of Colorado Free University, John Hand, was killed. Helen Hand, John’s sister and a practicing clinical psychologist, took over as the school’s leader. Eventually, Helen consolidated the school’s two locations into one, in the Lowry neighborhood of east Denver. With the pandemic in 2020, CFU began offering both in-person and online classes. 

According to president, Helen Hand, “Something wonderful happens when people come together with a desire to take control of their own lives, learn about what is important to them, and push themselves to do new things.  Grappling with new ideas, brainstorming possibilities, and trying out a new skill are all much more fun and invigorating when you do it with other independent-minded folks. CFU is truly a special resource.”


  • John Hand–founder
  • Helen Hand—president, new course development
  • Cecile DiGiallonardo—business manager, computer training coordinator
  • Maryjean Hand-Bender—course manager, registration office manager,  Spanish center coordinator
  • Rachel Iacino–student services representative
  • Nancy Bowen—janitorial
  • 200 passionate and knowledgeable independent instructors
  • Hundreds of adult learners who value continuing education and enrichment