State sets aside $50 million to reward innovation in higher education

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The 2014-15 California state budget allocated $50 million for one-time awards to recognize University of California, California State University and community college campuses that develop innovative ways to help students graduate more efficiently.

The Awards for Innovation in Higher Education reward campuses that implement initiatives to meet state goals of increasing the number of degrees awarded, allowing more students to graduate in four years and facilitating transfers between community colleges and four-year institutions.

Any UC campus, CSU campus or California community college may submit an application for an award until Jan. 9. Campuses may apply as a group, in which case the funds will be allocated to the campus that submitted the application and then distributed to the other schools.

Unlike grants that reward strategies, the innovation awards are directed at schools with initiatives already in place at the time of application.
UC Berkeley has submitted a preproposal to the UC Office of the President, according to Cynthia Schrager, assistant vice provost. Catherine Koshland, vice chancellor of undergraduate education at UC Berkeley, met with a team of campus administrators who unanimously selected the “Pathways to Four-Year Partnerships” program as the focus of UC Berkeley’s proposal, Schrager said.

Through UC Berkeley advising and summer courses, the program provides additional support for students from five Bay Area community colleges — Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, De Anza College, Laney College and Merritt College — who intend to transfer to UC Berkeley, another UC campus or any four-year university.

A selection committee of seven members — five appointed by the governor, one by the speaker of the Assembly and one by the Senate Rules Committee — will determine which campuses receive the innovation awards and the amount of each award. The committee is set to convene in March 2015 to make award decisions, and the awards will be distributed no later than June 30, 2015.

“At the end of the day, we’ll be able to highlight campuses that did something innovative and different that we could maybe implement in other campuses,” said Arnoldo Avalos, a member of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors who was appointed to the committee by the governor.

Avalos, who received his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, said one of the reasons he was appointed to the committee was his background in high technology.

“We’re really trying to leverage technology with innovation,” Avalos said. “Nothing has been stated in terms what we favor, but technology is important to scale and reach more students.”

Although decisions are ultimately up to the committee, the California Department of Finance suggests that each award be at least $2.5 million, which would allow for up to 20 awards. There are 10 UC campuses, 23 CSU campuses and 112 California community colleges in total.
The award amounts, which are not intended to cover the costs of implementing changes, will be determined based on the extent to which campuses meet the requirements of alignment with state goals, scale and commitment.
As a condition of receiving an award, the selected campuses will be required to report expenditure plans and the effectiveness of the initiatives for review by the selection committee.

Contact Amy Jiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.