The most effective college readiness efforts come as a result of strong partnerships between higher education and K-12 public education, but can often be difficult to initiate and sustain. In the 2014 Legislative Session, Senator Stephen Urquhart championed efforts to appropriate funds for mini-grants promoting partnerships between higher education and K-12 that are outcome focused, leverage existing resources with a proven track record, and exhibit a commitment to ongoing sustainability.
In June 2014, USHE released the RFP for the StepUP READY grants, inviting applications from partnerships between local school districts/LEAs and Utah higher education institutions. The primary focus of the grants is to increase the number of Utah’s public high school students who graduate college-ready and enroll in a post-secondary institution. All grants required a robust partnership between the K-12 schools and the higher education institution to ensure intentional efforts surrounding college preparation, enrollment, and first-year transition. Outcomes are measured with commonly-accepted metrics on college readiness. These objectives were divided into four categories: preparation, enrollment, transition, and professional development.
The RFP listed more than 20 measurable objectives applicants could use to best fit their programs, yet ensuring outcome accountability such as:
- Increase number of students who achieve ACT college-readiness benchmarks through targeted interventions and support.
- Increase number of students completing concurrent English 1010 and/or Math 1030/1040/1050 with a grade of “B” or higher.
- Increase the number of students taking STEM-related courses in senior year.
- Increase parental engagement related to college preparation and attainment.
- Increase number of first-generation high school seniors who apply to one or more colleges/universities.
- Engage under-represented students in intentional summer programming to ease transition (note: this refers to “bridge” programs, not orientation or first-year experience).
- Engage teachers and administrators in college readiness training.
USHE received a total of 23 applications:
- All USHE institutions submitted at least one grant application.
- Two charter schools submitted applications.
- Applications proposed programs that would provide interventions in 24 school districts.
A committee composed of representatives from public education and higher education then reviewed these applications. The review committee recommended to the Commissioner that nine grants be awarded. These nine grants represent collaborations between six USHE institutions and 19 school districts:
- University of Utah & Canyons, Granite, Washington County, & Iron County School Districts: Advancing Utah’s College Readiness Agenda Through Professional Development, Cultivating Partnerships
Increasing counselor professional development by expanding the Collaborative Counselor Training Initiative throughout these districts and building parent-student college readiness support workshops targeting at-risk and under-represented students.
- University of Utah & Granite School District: Utah College Advising Corps Expansion
Improving college enrollment through by expanding existing College Advising Corps to place a member at Olympus High School, a school with an increasing number of under-served students.
- Utah State University & Box Elder, Cache, Jordan, and Salt Lake School Districts: USU School Counselor Professional Development Partnership
Increasing counselor professional development by expanding the Collaborative Counselor Training Initiative throughout these districts and implementing counselor created action plans at each impacted school.
- Utah State University Eastern & San Juan School District: STEM Infusion & FAFSA StepUP Initiatives
Improving college readiness by increasing the number of students taking four years of STEM-related courses (math and science) through targeted hands-on after-school activities and professional development for teachers. Will also deliver FAFSA completion workshops to increase the number of seniors who complete the FAFSA.
- Weber State University & Syracuse High School: Titan University (Davis School District)
Improving college readiness by introducing ACT workshops to remediate students who scored below benchmarks on the junior-year ACT test. Increasing the number of students taking AP/CE courses in grades 11 & 12, and implementing FAFSA workshops to increase the number of seniors who complete the FAFSA.
- Weber State University & Weber School District: College Knowledge in 10th Grade
Increase college awareness and attainment by providing professional development for 10th grade teachers to improve their knowledge of the college-going process and increasing the number of students taking concurrent enrollment.
- Dixie State University & Washington County School District: Improving College Math Preparedness in Washington County
Increase college preparation in Washington County by increasing the number of sophomores enrolling in Secondary Math III; increasing the passing rates of Secondary Math III; and increasing the number of students taking a 4th year of high school math.
- Utah Valley University: UVU/Mountain View High School Enroll Now Partnership (Alpine School District)
Impacting the enrollment of under-served students by increasing the number of first-generation high school students who apply to one or more colleges/universities and increasing the number of seniors who complete the FAFSA.
- Snow College & K16 Alliance: Opportunities to Prepare Now (OPeN) (Juab, Millard, Piute, Sevier, North Sanpete, South Sanpete, Wayne School Districts)
Increasing college awareness and readiness in Juab, Millard, Piute, Sevier, North Sanpete, South Sanpete, Tintic, and Wayne School Districts by introducing Utah Scholars Initiative to those districts and building upon the 8th grade intervention. A parallel parent initiative in Spanish will reach additional families.
- All grantees must enter into a grant agreement with USHE, spelling out any modifications in the application (such as expansion of programs or utilization of existing USHE programs), data sharing, and exploring sustainability.
- With the submission of a completed grant agreement, funds will be expended in January 2015.
- Implementation January-December 2015.
- Reports will be due to USHE in June 2015, January 2016, and April 2016.
More information on StepUP Utah.