Celebrating ten years of success, College OPTIONS’ mission is to strengthen the college-going culture in the North State by increasing opportunities for students to pursue postsecondary education and ensuring that all students can make informed decisions about their educations and their futures.
In 2001, The McConnell Foundation collaborated with UCLA professor Patricia McDonough to study the college-going culture in the North State. The study concluded in part that the area lacked a strong college-going culture; i.e. the region largely did not recognize or respect the value of a college education and, therefore, did not encourage its youth and/or workforce to pursue higher education. The study found that this cultural attitude was pervasive; impacting how parents, employers, high school teachers and counselors, and the general community communicated its aspirations (or lack of aspirations) to its youth and workforce.
The study also revealed three major obstacles which prevented North State students from attending a four-year institution after high school. The obstacles:
- the cost of attending college and the limited knowledge of financial aid available for students and their families.
- the geographic remoteness and rural terrain of most of the North State; and
- the inability of North State high schools to offer the number of college prep courses (A-G) that other high schools throughout the state could offer.
As a result of this study and further discussion among stakeholders, the Northern California K-16 Partnership for Shasta and Siskiyou counties emerged in 2002-2003 with the primary purpose of creating a college-going culture in Shasta and Siskiyou counties. Thirteen secondary, post-secondary and private institutions joined the venture. This new partnership was funded by the Foundation and a combination of federal and private grants and institutional funding. The partnership, after considering several names for the new program, finally chose College OPTIONS.
Ten years later, College OPTIONS continues to thrive in the North State. Program partners have continued to grow and the original support for the program is now being supplemented by additional private and public funds and in-kind support. Thanks to these collaborators, College OPTIONS is now operating in five counties including Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, and Modoc.
College OPTIONS focuses on enhancing student, family and community awareness of college choices. In addition to having advisors on-site at nearly every public high school and several middle schools in the North State region, the College OPTIONS Access Center in Redding provides community events, financial aid services, and advisors to discuss career and educational goals – helping students and their families make informed choices about the best path for them. Advisors also coordinate college readiness workshops, financial aid nights, scholarship programs and organize visits to colleges and universities.
College OPTIONS is also proud to support community collaborations including Reach Higher Shasta and Expect More Tehama. These regional partnerships ensure that all stakeholders are engaged in College and Career Readiness efforts and provide direct support to educators to increase student access and success in rigorous coursework.
Since 2003, thanks to the hard work of College OPTIONS and all of its partners, there has been an:
- 41% increase in college applications completed
- 44% increase in students applying for Financial Aid
- 14% increase in students graduating high school eligible for CSU/UC enrollment
- 16% increase in students enrolling in postsecondary education.
An additional highlight: In May 2013, the community signed the North State Promise, a community pledge from higher education partners throughout the region, ensuring that all students in the five-county service area will have a place in college in response to their increased academic efforts.