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Funding & Awards

California Community Colleges Win Innovation Awards for Pilot Programs

Thirteen of the 113 campuses that make up the California Community Colleges system have won grants to develop innovative programs for increasing completion rates and making college more affordable. Exactly 42 schools applied for the grants, which were funded by a $25 million allocation in the 2016-2017 state budget.

The legislation had three specific goals in mind:

  • To redesign curriculum and instruction, such as the implementation of three-year bachelor's degrees;
  • To allow students to progress toward completion of degrees and credentials based on their demonstration of knowledge and competencies, including skills acquired through military training or prior learning or experiences; and
  • To create programs that make college more affordable by making financial aid and other supports and services more accessible, including by increasing the number of students who apply for these programs or by reducing the costs of books and supplies.

Cuesta College, for example, won $2 million to continue development of "Degree Accelerator," which will give Paso Robles High School students a way to earn up to 36 general education credits through expanded dual/concurrent enrollment tuition- and fee-free, along with a second free year provided through a college scholarship program. The innovation award will help the high school outfit a state-of-the-art shared classroom on its campus to run online general education courses taught by college faculty -- including over the summer months. This isn't the first run-through for Cuesta. Over the past several years, the college has implemented dual enrollment courses at every San Luis Obispo County public high school, serving about 2,000 students annually.

At Los Angeles Trade-Technical College programs of study are designed to be finished in two years or less, but less than a percent of the 11,300 students who have enrolled for the first time do so. The biggest barrier, according to the school: lack of academic preparedness for college-level work. To counteract those trends, the college will spend its $2 million grant to accelerate the impact of "Pathway to Academic, Career & Transfer Success (PACTS)," a program begun in 2012. Innovations will include a mapping of competencies to curriculum; boosting student support efforts with counseling, tutoring and mentoring; and promoting competency-based education by providing professional development on CBE to its faculty and staff.

Laney College in Oakland, CA will use its $1 million grant to create a "24/7 accessible SMART technology-enabled learning framework." The initiative is being launched out of the biology department and will start with an infusion of technology into those classrooms, including displays, computers, projectors and sound systems; followed by distribution of iPads loaded with digital resources and faculty professional development. Eventually, the college hopes to open a STEM center where STEM faculty can collaborate and students can gain access to instructors, industry professionals and "innovative equipment."

Links to all submitted applications, including those that received awards, are available here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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