District Collaborates with Colleges to Improve Transition to Higher Education

Goal is to Increase Bachelor's Degree Completion
Fresno Unified is embarking on a groundbreaking new project to increase the number of low-income students who complete their bachelor's degrees.

Using a $500,000 grant from the College Futures Foundation, the district is partnering with Fresno City College, Fresno State and University of California at Merced to share data to increase students' successful transition from high school to college, and from community college to a four-year college or university.

"I see this new partnership as a critical step to making sure even more of our students achieve their dreams of higher education," said Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson.

The non-profit College Futures Foundation works to remove systemic and institutional barriers to college degrees, enabling students to access the resources they need to complete their degrees on time and help California thrive.

Fresno Unified kicked off its collaboration with the colleges, known as the Fresno Unified Higher Education Partnership, with a press event in April.

Through the project, the district and colleges will work to better align systems and coordinate resources to increase student academic achievement, college preparation, matriculation and transition, university transfers, and the rate of bachelor's degree completions.
The effort builds on an existing Fresno Unified partnership with UC Merced that embeds seven UC Merced professional and technical staff in Fresno Unified's Department of Equity and Access to help develop and monitor student data between the two educational systems.

Staff is able to monitor students not at grade level or who have gotten off track to graduate so that they get the support they need.

Using the College Futures Foundation grant, the district will place personnel from Fresno State and the State Center Community College District in Fresno Unified to work alongside UC Merced and district staff to improve practices that boost student achievement in high school and college.

Through the project, Fresno Unified and higher education partners will be able to identify the most challenging barriers that keep students from transitioning successfully to college. The partnership will be able to access "real time" accurate student data; develop new, critical indicators to help spot students who are struggling; and improve monitoring of student achievement from all educational sources.

One of the reasons Fresno Unified received the grant from the College Futures Foundation was the success it had already achieved with the work of its Equity and Access staff. The work was launched in 2009, focused on building a career and college-going culture. The first phase focused on training for academic counselors, A-G course completion (for admission to UC and CSU campuses) and graduation rates.

Equity and Access worked with academic counselors on tools and processes so they could better identify and remove barriers keeping students from being eligible for college, including establishing an A-G Monitoring Tool data base. Staff also redesigned the summer school program starting in 2010 so that students who had gotten off track to graduate or complete A-G courses could make up the work. Students were pre-enrolled in the classes they needed and had to opt out if they were not going to attend summer school.

More recently, deeper investments are being made in providing social emotional supports to students, such as social workers and counselors, because behavioral issues and poor attendance is often the reason students get D's or F's in classes and are then not eligible for college.

The district's implementation of a better support system for students has paid off in a number of ways:

  • The graduation rate has increased from 69.2% in 2010 to an estimated nearly 82% in 2015

  • A-G completion rates have increased from 25.8% in 2008 to 46.57% in 2014

  • Application rates to UC increased from 220 applicants in 2009 to 695 in 2014

  • Application rates to Fresno State increased from 999 in 2009 to 2,048 in 2014

  • 85.77% of students from the 2014 graduating class applied to community college