Student teacher working with two children.
Story Student Success

An Open Road to Education

Alex Beall

Seven CSU campuses received funding through the state’s K-16 Education Collaboratives Grant Program to eliminate equity gaps in higher education and workforce participation.

Student teacher working with two children.

To increase access to higher education, graduate more students into stable careers and strengthen California's workforce, the state's new K-16 Education Collaboratives Grant Program funded six education collaboratives involving seven CSU campuses.

The program was created to help the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and invested a total of $108.6 million through these first six awards, with each collaborative receiving about $18.1 million.

These regional collaboratives consist of CSU and UC campuses, community colleges, K-12 districts, county offices and nonprofit partners. To achieve the program goals, their work will include participating in the California Cradle-to-Career Data System, diversifying faculty and staff, bridging technology gaps, and supporting college preparation and dual enrollment—as well as developing education-to-career pathways in the health care, education, business management and engineering/computing sectors.

“We're creating new regional pipelines—K-12 schools to higher education to the workforce—for California's students that will prepare our kids for the jobs of the future in their communities," Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press release. “This essential collaboration will help bridge equity gaps and provide more resources to help our students achieve their career goals right in their own communities."

Learn how CSU campuses will support the effort.

Cal Poly Humboldt & Sonoma State

​​Redwood tree at Cal Poly HumboldtAs part of the ​Redwood Coast K-16 Education Collaborative, Cal Poly Humboldt will lead an effort with regional partners including Sonoma State to build cradle-to-career ​​pathways in education and health care.

“We're going for a systemic change," says Mary Gonzalez, Ph.D., Cal Poly Humboldt initiatives consultant. “Evidence says that strong, inclusive support services make a real impact on success rates, and that's what we're trying to do."

A main focus is on the creation of a virtual dual enrollment hub where high school students can enroll online in courses for college credit. “This will give students in these different regions the opportunity to take courses that will give them college credit, help with A-G completion rates and help them identify what career they will go into," says Carmen Bustos-Works, Ph.D., Cal Poly Humboldt associate vice president of Academic Programs.

“In looking at existing barriers, we found that underserved communities don't always have access to the coursework required to enter a four-year university … and schools may not have opportunities for children to take advanced level courses," says Laura Alamillo, Ph.D., dean of the Sonoma State School of Education. “The collaborative provides the space to work hand-in-hand with our district partners to not only address schools' needs, but also engage in critical conversations about college access."

The collaborative will also provide stipends for upscaling teachers to lead these courses, stipends for dual enrolled students and training in virtual learning and teaching. In addition, it will increase internet access, as the region has very limited cell and internet service, by offering hotspots and devices and hiring experts to set up internet connection sites throughout the area.

“We have to change the narrative and provide opportunities for everyone to have access to higher education​," Dr. Bustos-Works says. “Governor Newsom infused this money into the state so we can build the robust workforce we need, and that's going to include taking people from the poorest regions of the state and lifting them up through these educational pathways."

Other steps include greater STEM instruction in elementary schools, information toolkits on requirements for applying to and attending college and grow-your-own teacher preparation programs. The collaborative will work to make these tactics culturally relevant to address inequities faced by underserved, namely Native American, communities.

“This project will provide support for students to be better prepared for college and to be more engaged in their education in one of the most economically challenged regions in the state," says Elisabeth Wade, Ph.D., dean of the Sonoma State School of Science and Technology. “We are working to identify Pathway Facilitators who are familiar with the Tribal regions within the Redwood Coast as we strive to support all California students in a culturally informed way."

CSU Bakersfield

​​Roadrunner statue at CSU BakersfieldWith an eye on lifting up the communities of Kern County, the Kern Regional K-16 Education Collaborative, which includes CSU Bakersfield, will carve out pathways in health care, education and engineering/computing.

“For years, we've been lumped in [with other counties], and a byproduct of that is our educational outcomes aren't changing," says Kristen Watson, Ed.D., CSU Bakersfield chief of staff to the president. “For Kern, we desperately need to improve our post-secondary education rates. It is with post-secondary education that we change the trajectory of the lives of the students and the families who are here."

The grant funding will aid the development of a dual enrollment network that gathers high schools, community colleges and four-years to ensure students' dual enrollment is intentional and supports their chosen education and career path. In addition, Kern County will introduce a program to help teachers earn credentials in English and math needed to teach these dual enrollment courses.

The collaborative will also create an academic advising network to standardize advising language and recommendations across education levels, launch an eighth teacher residency program in a rural area of the county and extend a program encouraging students to pursue master's and doctoral education beyond STEM to social sciences and other topics.

“It's about getting students to graduate, go to college and enter into the workforce," Dr. Watson says. “As they move through our programs, as they successfully earn their degrees, we need to know that they're landing somewhere and that their education has been a wise investment for not only the students, but for their families."

Sacramento State

​​Campus sign at Sacramento StateThe Sacramento K16 Collaborative will implement five initiatives with the funding: strengthen regional data infrastructure, bolster dual enrollment, improve the learning environment for high priority students, expand transfer pathways and build upon educational pathways in health care and engineering/computing.

“This effort sheds a light on the importance of education and the entire intersegmental system of education attainment at any level—K-12, associate, baccalaureate, master's," says Jenni Murphy, Ed.D., dean of the Sacramento State College of Continuing Education. “Education is a pathway out of poverty, and having an educated workforce is how our state sustains an economic advantage."

First, the collaborative will improve the region's ability to report, gather and share data—including by participating in ​the Cradle-to-Career Data System—ensuring the information is available to study student outcomes and intervene sooner.

With attention on high priority students such as students of color, adult learners, returning students, women and single parents, the collaborative's emphasis on dual enrollment and improving the learning environment will help these students earn the credits they need to complete their college degree.

In addition, the collaborative aims to expand transfer pathways through reverse transfer, reverse articulation agreements and credit reclamation, and to strengthen health care and engineering/computing pathways with apprenticeships, stackable credentials and increasing the number of Career Technical Education teachers in high schools and middle schools.

“Research indicates an overall reduction for the full cost of education when dual enrollment, internships, stackable credits and credit for prior learning shorten time to completion without compromising rigor," Dr. Murphy says. “We're addressing the different world that we have now, because not everyone is a traditional 18- to 24-year-old full-time student right out of high school."

Finally, the project will also distribute accelerator grants to scale up effective tactics after a one-year evaluation.

Fresno State

​​Campus sign at Fresno StateIn 2019, the Fresno-Madera K-16 Collaborative piloted a two-year program to increase college degree attainment in high-demand industries, align educational preparation with the needs of regional employers and close race and equity gaps by integrating the local education system. That project is now the model for the new Central San Joaquin Valley K-16 Partnership, which brings together Fresno and Madera County partners, including Fresno State, with the Tulare-Kings College & Career Collaborative.

“There's a conscious effort around how we can work together so that we're helping all our students, because our students move throughout the counties, and how we can do things that are supporting the social economics of our region," says Karri Hammerstrom, executive director of the Fresno-Madera K-16 Collaborative.

The combined effort will focus on dual enrollment and early college credit as a means to strengthen educational pathways in health care, education, business management and engineering/computing. Partners will submit applications to fund proposed solutions, including how to upscale teachers, retain students and support adult learners. Currently, students can participate in dual enrollment through College and Career Access Pathways, independent study and a virtual dual enrollment hub.

“We're providing a clear path for students, trying to eliminate barriers along the way so that there's not a lot of ambiguity on how to get to college and to make sure that there's support for students and career exposure earlier on," Hammerstrom says.

“Students need advocates," she continues. “Being in the education system is a tough process to navigate sometimes. This is hopefully a way to connect students to opportunities, to expose them to things that they wouldn't have been exposed to and to let them know that college is for them, too."

Cal State Fullerton

​​Cal State Fullerton campusThe state funding will help OC Pathways to and Through College and Career partners, including Cal State Fullerton, to build on existing efforts around educational pathways in education, health care, business management and engineering/computing.

“The great thing about this program is that the state has identified the sectors that are expected to experience a lot of growth and will need workforce participants," says Estela Zarate, Ph.D., Cal State Fullerton vice provost of Academic Affairs. “Since those areas have been identified, we can invest in the preparation of our students to fulfill those roles, which means we are investing in the future of California. We are investing in a homegrown solution to workforce development."

Specifically, the efforts include providing students with work-based learning through regional work partnerships, removing barriers to entering or returning to college, providing Career Technical Education courses in middle and high schools and offering college credit and certification opportunities through dual enrollment.

“Students from participating school districts will be able to experience education and career preparations from high school to job placement in these areas," Dr. Zarate says. “In many ways, the pathways that are sought in this partnership are built into our campus identity."

Chico State

​​Entrance at Chico StateThe North State region of California is made up of largely rural counties and will be the focus of funding granted to the North State Together ne​twork. Chico State will support the network's ongoing efforts to develop educational pathways in health care and education and increase access to higher education for community members.

“To serve small, rural communities, it takes more money, it takes more attention, it takes an acknowledgement that those places have value," says Ann Schulte, Ph.D., Chico State director of Civic Engagement. “We have to invest in working alongside them to move them forward, and the university's purpose in terms of its service to the region is to help be a part of that vitality and progress."

As part of the effort, Chico State will expand its student teaching placements in North State counties. This process began with the placement of student teachers in more schools in Tehama County.

“They're making a concerted effort to create more opportunities for students from that region to student teach in their communities," Dr. Schulte says. “The way that we want to build this out in Undergraduate Education is to create stronger ties to those schools that will be engaged with this work by providing stronger support systems as students come into Chico State."

Those partnerships—along with targeted resources through the Chico Student Support Center, such as the TRIO Student Support Services program for first-generation students and the REACH (Raising Educational Achievement in Collaborative Hubs) program for first-generation, first-year students—will help Chico State better recruit and retain North State students. The new initiative Giving Back Home will then empower those students to return and contribute to their rural communities.

“The more we're able to reinforce that connection between the student and their home community, the more likely that community will benefit from the student's college degree and perspective," Schulte says.

​Cradle-to-Career Data System

​The Cradle-to-Career (C2C) Data System is a collection of resources for students, parents, teachers, schools, advocates and researchers created using information on student and workforce outcomes. Students and parents can access support for planning, applying and paying for college—including completing required credits and securing financial aid. Educators and schools can use the tools to better prepare students for college and improve student services. The C2C system will soon introduce data dashboards to aid the work of advocates and researchers.

Learn more about C2C’s early milestones.

Photos courtesy of Jason Halley/Chico State and Cary ​Edmondson/Fresno State.