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Brandman, Central Valley educators united to serve Fresno

May 19, 2021

The following content first appeared on the news page while UMass Global operated under its former name of Brandman University.

Fresno area students, many of whom are already returning to neighborhood schools, will have new roadmaps to academic and professional success as they progress through their educations. The school districts, colleges and universities that comprise the Fresno K-16 Collaborative are laying out new routes for high school students, collegians, and adult learners to travel along their way to fulfilling vocations and financial security.

Brandman has directed a significant amount of energy to the Fresno K-16 Collaborative, and will continue to do so. Chancellor Gary Brahm serves on the partnership’s Executive Steering Committee and within Brandman, the project is uniting teams based at Central Valley campuses and the university’s Irvine headquarters. Executive Vice Chancellor for Partnerships Nancy Salzman, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Terri M. Carbaugh, School of Extended Education Dean Ricardo Lorenzana, Modesto Campus Director Richard Carnes, and Visalia Campus Director Sonia Gutierrez-Mendoza are leading the Brandman faculty and staff who are helping the university build new relationships with Fresno area students and educators.

The Fresno K-16 Collaborative is a two-year (June 2020 to June 2022) pilot project. The participating institutions recently completed a progress report showing how they are already enhancing cooperation among local educators who share the complementary goals of closing equity gaps and invigorating the local economy. By bringing the region’s school districts, colleges and universities into closer alignment, the partners will help students avoid detours on the road to meaningful employment. The more students who benefit, the greater the prospects for each individual success to factor into improved community outcomes. Educators’ desired results include increasing educational attainment among students from underserved communities, closing regional skills gaps, expanding opportunities for Fresno employers' to hire skilled local job candidates, and reducing poverty throughout the region.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this project during the 2019 California Economic Summit in Fresno. The partners, whose work is supported by the Governor's Council for Post-Secondary Education and the College Futures Foundation, are not seeking to reinvent local education. Instead, they are teaming up so each participating institution can make the most of its respective strengths. The Fresno partners hope to provide an example that educators serving other regions, such as the Inland Empire, can duplicate in their own work to boost degree attainment and local opportunity.

For now, key educational and economic indicators show the Fresno region lagging behind California as a whole. About 21% of Fresno County residents who are at least 25 years old hold a bachelor’s degree or higher educational credential, compared with 34% of the entire state’s 25-and-older set, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fresno County’s 20.5% poverty rate is nearly double the state’s rate of about 12%. Also, California’s Employment Development Department reported that in March, Fresno County's 9.9% unemployment rate exceeded the state's 8.3% jobless rate.

This pilot project is designed to ameliorate such disparities by clearly delineating educational pathways to career fields that are projected to be both well-paying and in high demand. This program will also be inclusive of broad segments of the population, including learners from different age groups. At one end of the spectrum, high school students can sign up for dual-enrollment courses conferring college credits. On the other, adult learners can enroll in programs leading to industry-recognized certifications. And in the middle, the partners will help transfer students make the jump from community colleges to four-year universities.

About the pilot

In its pilot stage, the partners are focused on guiding students to the fields of accounting and fiscal management, engineering, and teaching at the middle and high school levels. The partners are also helping high school teachers earn master’s degrees so they can teach dual-enrollment courses. Pilot activities are expected to extend learning opportunities to more than 1,300 students, nearly 200 of whom would be adult learners. The partners are also geared up to support more than 100 working teachers obtain master’s degrees. If the Fresno K-16 Collaborative remains active after its pilot stage, educators would be in the clear to chart additional pathways for students interested in nursing and advanced manufacturing.

This multiplicity of educational goals requires different schools and organizations to focus on distinct tasks. Among the partnering universities, Fresno State University is committed to helping students begin careers in accounting, engineering, and teaching. Fresno Pacific and National universities, both of which are nonprofit institutions, are on the team to help teachers complete master’s degrees. The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium and Fresno County Superintendent of Schools are also among the partners working toward this goal.

UC Merced is also at the table, ensuring that all three of California’s public higher education segments are represented. This is especially important, since the partners want to provide for a smooth transfer process for students who journey from community colleges to universities.

Brandman's contributions

Brandman University will leverage its institutional expertise in online and adult education. The university received a $349,000 grant from the California State University, Fresno Foundation, with financing from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, to support its contributions to the project. The funding will help Brandman deliver online courses leading to the American Payroll Association’s Fundamental Payroll Certification and the Computer Technology Industry Association’s CompTIA A+ certification. Students who complete either of these programs will be better prepared for the workplace and continued study toward degrees.

The Fundamental Payroll Certification program goes hand-in-hand with the partners’ shared objective of helping learners prepare for careers in accounting and financial management. Brandman will work closely with other members of the Fresno K-16 Collaborative to help students earn certifications. The university is already communicating and coordinating with the State Center Adult Education Consortium, Fresno City College, and the Clovis Unified School District to make sure students enjoy fruitful learning experiences.

Brandman is on pace to begin delivering classes aligned with the partnership’s goals soon. Fundamental Payroll Certification courses for adults and dual-enrollment students are set to begin in June, with additional classes planned for fall 2021. Altogether, Brandman seeks to help more than 200 students, 60 of whom would be adult learners, study for this certification.

The American Council on Education affirms this credential is worthy of college credit. Students who earn the certification and opt to stay with Brandman will be able to apply earned credits toward a Bachelor of Business Administration, among other degrees.

Fresno needs qualified accountants and financial professionals. Regional employment for accountants is projected to rise 9% over the 2019-29 period, according to Economic Modeling, LLC (Emsi). Accountants working around Fresno can earn median salaries of about $65,000 a year.

Financial examiners and managers are also projected to be in demand around Fresno. Forecasts show respective job growth rates of nearly 21% and nearly 13% for financial examiners and financial managers. Financial examiners can earn median salaries of nearly $92,000 in the Fresno region, and median salaries for financial managers are about $103,000 a year.

Brandman will also teach 20 adult students in courses leading to the CompTIA A+ certification. Students who obtain this certification will be able to apply earned credits to multiple Brandman degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Computing Technology. A future graduate who earns this degree on their way to a career as a computer and information system manager can earn a median salary of about $124,000 a year in the Fresno area. The projected job growth rate for this occupation in the region is about 15% over the 2019-29 period.

There’s also a growing need for information security analysts. People with the tech skills to keep businesses and other organizations safe from hackers can earn more than $76,000 a year in Fresno. The projected job growth rate for this occupation in the region is about 28%.

Brandman has the capability to help the Fresno K-16 Collaborative serve a diverse region. The university’s ability to form connections with nontraditional students is evident in data showing more than 92% of credit-seeking students, enrolled as of Fall 2019 across the breadth of its campuses and online programs, were at least 25 years of age. Brandman’s faculty and staff also have experience serving members of diverse communities. As of fall 2019, about 22% of the university’s total enrollment of credit-seeking students identified as Hispanic or Latino, while nearly 11% identified as Black.

Brandman is also well-established in Central Valley Communities. The university has campuses in Modesto and Visalia, as well as at Naval Air Station Lemoore, and is an active member of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium.

Brandman and its partners in Fresno’s education community are looking forward to the Fresno K-16 Collaborative establishing itself as a model for how public and private colleges can work with K-12 school districts to map out educational pathways aligning with regional economic needs. By demonstrating successes that can be replicated in other regions, educators would foster a more prosperous environment for all Fresno area residents, while setting an example that can be duplicated in virtually any Golden State locality.

For more information

Information about the Fresno K-16 Collborative’s activities and plans are available online in meeting documents from the California Governor’s Council for Post-Secondary Education.


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