State Higher Education award to be announced

Award to go to most innovative college

A seven-member committee led by Governor Jerry Brown’s Director of Finance, Michael Cohen, is due to announce the winners of California’s Awards for Innovation in Higher Education later this month.

The committee is looking to reward California community college, California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses that revise their policies to reach three main goals.

These goals are to increase the amount of bachelor’s degrees achieved, let students achieve their bachelor’s degrees within four years after starting higher education and let students transfer between California schools more easily.

Awards will be given to the schools that comply with the following main criteria: how well the changes meet the previously mentioned three goals at a lower cost without making students pay higher tuitions or fees, how much participation from UC campuses, CSU campuses, community colleges and other educational institutions is involved, how replicable the changes are and how committed the campuses are to these changes.

Numerous groups will be hosting a forum where participants will be able to present their ideas in front of business leaders, officials and members of the award’s judging committee.

California Competes, an organization helping to improve higher education in California, will be one of the hosts.

Ideas that are currently being considered cover a numerous aspects of college life, from counseling to replacing textbooks or creating advanced outreach programs for high school students.

Bob Shireman, the executive director of California Competes, asked 15 outside experts to review the proposals before the forum. Interesting ideas included a partnership between San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University to develop small learning communities to help students during their first two years of college and create a clear transferring path.

Administration representing California State University, Fresno proposed to give students tablet computers for courses centered around the devices. Lastly, UC Irvine is persuading more students to take courses online and over the summer.

So far, 52 schools are competing for the awards. This includes eight UC campuses, 18 CSU campuses and 26 community colleges.

To enter the competition, colleges were required to fill out applications describing the steps they took to increase the amount of Californians earning bachelor’s degrees in four years as well as steps to make it easier for students starting in two-year colleges to finish in four-year universities.

In the 2014 Budget Act, $50 million from the General Fund was put aside for Innovation in Higher Education.

Brown pledged to use this money to reward campuses with innovative, cost-effective approaches but not before an innovative prize and system to determine the winners were developed.

“The prize is an innovation itself,” James Mayer, the president of California Forward, a government reform group, said at the higher education showcase. “The awards were predicated on an important realization: public agencies throughout California, including colleges and universities, must find ways to reduce costs and improve results.”