SoCal colleges among winners of innovation awards

The campus of California State University, San Bernardino.
The campus of California State University, San Bernardino.
Courtesy California State University, San Bernardino

California State University, San Bernardino, and University of California, Riverside, are among the winners sharing a $50 million award that Gov. Jerry Brown is distributing for creative and cost-effective ways to get more students to earn degrees.

The 14 colleges were among 52 from across the state that applied for a slice of the prize money.

Five colleges named the top scorers will get $5 million each to continue their work; five others will receive $3 million and the remaining four will get $2.5 million.

"The innovations we are celebrating today are already helping to maintain and expand access to higher education for California's students," Michael Cohen, chair of the awards committee and director of the Department of Finance said in a statement.

Among the top scorers are Cal State San Bernardino and UC Riverside, which are partners in an effort to increase college graduation by starting in kindergarten and preparing students for college and graduation, with a focus on math and underrepresented groups.

The colleges said in their application that they aim to increase bachelor degrees by 15 percent across their two counties within five years. The colleges are working with nine school districts to require four years of math in high school.

Other Southern California colleges winning a part of the award include:

• Long Beach City College: The college plans to build on the Long Beach College Promise program that gives area students opportunities to transfer from community college to a university and earn a degree within four years. The program targets underrepresented groups and is a collaboration with Long Beach Unified School District, community colleges, Cal State Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.

• Santa Ana College: The college says its collaboration with Santa Ana Unified School District prepares students to enter college, emphasizing English for college-level work while serving a large Spanish-speaking community. 

• California State University, Dominguez Hills: The university says it is using strategies to improve student retention and graduation rates, focusing on such groups as first-generation students and low-income students and employing intensive advising.

"I congratulate all of the winning colleges, universities and their other partners on receiving this prestigious and well-earned award," California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in news release. "Increasing access to higher education and boosting completion rates are laudable goals and will foster the economic and social well-being of this state."

A full list of the winners is posted on the state's website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.