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When the current Under Secretary of Education Dr. Martha Kanter, was Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Silicone Valley California, she encouraged the college presidents to develop an articulation agreement between each college and Palo Alto University, a new private non-profit university, led by Dr. Allen Calvin, that had grown out of the very prestigious Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.* The first cohort graduated this spring.

Martha Kanter and Allen Calvin at graduation ceremonies

This agreement was seminal in several ways. Students of Foothill and De Anza could matriculate into a baccalaureate degree program in psychology, spending their first two years completing community college classes and their junior and senior years at the same campus taking upper division classes taught by university professors.

This partnership enabled Palo Alto University to keep its tuition competitive with the state-supported institutions. The tuition covered the two-year and baccalaureate expenses in a cost-sharing arrangement.

This innovative program was very student-oriented. Students remained within a familiar environment in which they had experienced success, they would enjoy additional prestige on campus as they were also Palo Alto University students and they would benefit from the University’s graduate clinical faculty and facilities. They did not even have to negotiate a different parking sticker.

The Foothill and De Anza faculty members also had the opportunity to teach upper division students in areas where they met the university qualifications engage in research and receive compensation for their university responsibilities. Palo Alto University benefited from low recruitment costs, savings in faculty expenses because of the partnership, and eager cohorts of students who also would have the opportunity to become candidates for the graduate programs.

Foothill and De Anza students have benefited from the program as well as the institutions themselves – a Win-Win for students, professors and the three partner institutions.

The fiscal and policy demands being placed on the public higher education systems, makes evident a need for an increase in lower-cost capacity to educate students to the BA. Obama’s 2020 higher education agenda proposes to restore our number one status in the world as a society who graduates from college the highest percentage of its population. We lost it about a decade ago.

With a stable or declining number of traditional majority-group students enrolling in higher education resulting in a decreasing percentage and the need to serve the fast-growing populations of Latino and Asian students, the new students will be from diverse populations, many from low-income families, who may have been educated in one of a thousand failing high schools in the nation. They will enroll, both by necessity and preference in the local community college, which are typically very good at producing results with these students.

But in order to meet the needs of our society, to increase the number of graduates with 4-year degrees, as well as substantially increase the percentage of the total population that group would represent, we need a greater melding of the needs and interests of community colleges and universities. We need partnership agreements, which are student-oriented, high quality, cost-effective, and efficient to increase educational opportunities to access baccalaureate degree programs that retain students until they graduate, in four years.

That’s what I call “moving in.”

* The author of this blog is a Trustee of Palo Alto University