(Photo: Shasta College)
Editor’s Note: The Budget Act of 2014 appropriates $50 million in one-time resources from the General Fund for the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education. Five campuses were awarded the maximum prize of $5 million each and CA Fwd will feature them in a weeklong series. Shasta College was one of the big winners and Superintendent/President Joe Wyse of the Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Joint Community College District agreed to answer a few questions about the award.
CA Fwd: Briefly describe what your innovation was designed to do?
Joe Wyse: “The primary goal of our innovation is to assist a majority of high school students in our 10,000-square-mile district earn 15 college units by the time they graduate from high school as a means to move them toward four-year degree attainment in a shorter amount of time with less cost.”
CA Fwd: These innovations take partnerships–who did you work with and why was that important to its success?
Joe Wyse: “We have several partnerships with area high schools and offices of education, and our main emphasis has been on dual enrollment – i.e., partnering with high schools to offer college classes during the high school day. High schools, particularly small rural ones, have been very enthusiastic.”
CA Fwd: What did you learn?
Joe Wyse: “We learned that partnerships are essential; that having a comprehensive organization involved, like Reach Higher Shasta (a local collaborative effort), can speed the process of change; that internal support at the college needs to come first, particularly from faculty; and that taking risks can have far-reaching benefits for students.”
CA Fwd: What data and analytic(s) have you used to assess the impact of this work and have they helped?
Joe Wyse: “We carefully track student success and completion, including the effect on different underrepresented groups. We are also monitoring teacher involvement and the rigor of the courses offered at the high school. As we proceed, we will track participating students’ unit acquisition and eventual degree completion. Data has helped make the case for our innovation when we have spoken to internal and external groups.”
CA Fwd: How will you sustain the innovation that you were awarded for?
Joe Wyse: “The funding for the Innovation Award will help us build the personnel infrastructure supporting dual enrollment and other programs; provide professional development to college and high school faculty; and increase outreach to the community. The college is committed to sustaining this program because of the benefit to students and ultimately, the community.”
CA Fwd: What could the state do to make it easier to encourage innovation in higher education (and other parts of state government)?
Joe Wyse: “Passage of currently proposed legislation (AB 288) would remove several obstacles to offering college classes at high schools. Generally, I believe that the state needs to continue to work toward the removal of barriers to innovation and encourage working across higher education boundaries rather than reinforcing separation of CCCs, CSUs and UCs via funding structures and competition for resources. Other states have moved far ahead of California in this regard.”