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bulldog bound

Kings Canyon Unified School District students celebrate the partnership with Fresno State's BulldogBound Program in 2023. Photo contributed

published on March 26, 2024 - 1:50 PM
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Universities in the Central Valley have partnered with local school districts and community colleges to create a more accessible pathway for students. These partnerships were made to support the goal of higher education in communities where students have a difficult time accessing support or resources.

Fresno State and Fresno Pacific University (FPU) now have programs in community colleges like West Hills and Reedley College and local school districts.

Early in 2023, Fresno State launched its Bulldog Bound program, which will allow high school students direct admission to the university upon graduation. The program was created to ensure participating students have a structured path to college success while offering support for students in grades nine through 12 and their parents as they prepare to enter college.

“I see this new guaranteed admissions program to Fresno State as a game-changer for our students, many of whom simply are not thinking about Fresno State as their goal soon enough,” said outgoing Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson. “This partnership is great for our families and our region.”

Students participating in the program will also receive Fresno State ID cards, which grant them email and library access. They will also receive assistance with applications, academic major exploration, scholarship opportunities and more. Pre-admission will also be offered to 11th graders in the program, with on-the-spot admissions for 12th graders.

When the program launched, participating school districts included Fresno Unified, Visalia Unified, Fowler Unified, Sanger Unified, Parlier Unified, Central Unified, and University High School.

Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) was added later in 2023 as a partnering school district, allowing direct admission from Reedley High School, Orange Cove High School and Reedley Middle College High School, the existing dual-enrollment school located on the Reedley College campus.

“This is a huge opportunity because it is our Cal State University in Fresno. It’s a good peace of mind,” said District College and Career Coordinator Sato Sanikian in October. I think it’ll increase the commitment students will have not only to high school but also to secondary and post-secondary options.”

According to the most recent information from the district, KCUSD has seen a 16% increase in the number of students applying to Fresno State since the start of the Bulldog Bound partnership in late 2023.

More recently, UC Merced announced partnerships with local school districts. Under a new partnership between the university and the districts, eligible high school students will be guaranteed admission to UC Merced — the UC Merced Automatic Admission Program (UC MAAP).

Central Unified High School District, Fresno Unified, Dinuba USD, KCUSD, Madera USD, Parlier USD, Sanger USD, Visalia USD, and 23 other school districts have accepted the partnership.

“We’re excited that we’ve already seen an increase in KCUSD students applying to Fresno State through the Bulldog Bound. We just introduced our partnership with UC Merced and have 100 juniors interested. That’s a great indicator that we’re on the right track to getting more of our students a four-year degree,” said John Campbell, Kings Canyon Unified School District Superintendent.

This is the second guaranteed admission partnership for KCUSD. In September 2023, the district solidified a partnership with Fresno State University’s Bulldog Bound program.

This partnership means that high school students who meet the minimum University of California A-G course requirements with a weighted 3.5 GPA or above and no grade lower than a “C” are guaranteed admission to UC Merced after graduating high school. Students must maintain that eligibility throughout their senior year. Any student in grade 11 can apply to UC MAAP before June 1. Students can then apply for undergraduate admission to UC Merced in their senior year.

UC Merced will have an online MAAP info session for students in 11th grade who are currently on track for the University of California to learn about how they participate in MAAP and receive guaranteed admissions to UC Merced before they apply for college in the fall. Parents and guardians of students are also welcome to join to learn more about UC Merced and how students can participate in this free program that offers guaranteed admissions for students who meet the MAAP criteria.

In December 2023, FPU and Reedley College created a program to improve opportunities for early childhood educators. This program allows qualified Reedley College early childhood education students to study for FPU’s B.A. in early childhood development. These students are guaranteed admission to the university, a 10% tuition discount, and support for future employment.

Work on the project began four years ago when Carol Gossett presented Reedley College with a proposal she designed. Gossett is an associate professor of education and director of the early childhood development program at FPU.

The program is aimed at helping adult students achieve their educational goals while balancing work and family responsibilities. Students join a cohort they stay with throughout an accelerated program and meet once a week for mutual learning and support. Cohorts allow students to continue working at preschools, in childcare and early care and education programs, or other employment without adding travel time to FPU’s Visalia or Fresno campuses.

Instruction takes place in Reedley College’s recently completed Early Childhood & Education Building, which provides classroom space and a lab school for infants, toddlers, and preschool children. The building also offers student work opportunities.

On March 4 at the Firebaugh Center, West Hills College Coalinga (WHCC) and FPU announced their educational partnership. The collaboration’s mission is to create seamless educational pathways and foster academic innovation, particularly in areas where access to higher education has traditionally been limited.

West Hills College Coalinga and its Firebaugh Center are positioned to serve a geographically remote service area where 24% of residents live in poverty, 62% have less than a high school diploma, and 97% have less than a BA/BS degree. This partnership addresses these challenges by providing accessible, high-quality educational pathways that lead to meaningful employment and economic upliftment.

 “This partnership stands as a beacon of hope for our community,” said Dr. Carla Tweed, President of West Hills College Coalinga, in a press release. “Together with Fresno Pacific University, we are breaking down educational barriers and opening up new avenues for success for our students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.”

 The collaboration between WHCC and FPU is created to enhance the educational experience for students, offering them more significant support and access to a broad spectrum of academic programs and resources. This initiative is particularly critical in areas where educational attainment levels are significantly below the national average.

 With Fresno Unified joining UC Merced this past January, the accessibility for high school students’ dream of attending a four-year university has never been higher.


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