The California State University, Fresno Foundation has received a $110,000 grant to support a consortium of higher education institutions working to boost the college-going rate in the San Joaquin Valley.

The James Irvine Foundation has announced it has awarded the one-year grant to the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, a new partnership formed last year by Fresno State and the University of California, Merced involving community colleges and four-year higher education institutions from Bakersfield to Modesto.

The initial monies will help the consortium develop a comprehensive action plan to increase the number of Valley high school students entering college as well as community college students transferring to four-year schools.

Fresno State President Dr. John D. Welty worked closely with UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey and area community college officials to create the consortium.

He said the Central Valley lags behind the rest of the state in the number of students who attain baccalaureate and graduate degrees with only 14 percent of Central Valley residents holding a bachelor’s degree, compared with 20.4 percent statewide. Only six percent hold advanced degrees, compared with 10.8 percent statewide.

Calling it “a seamless higher education system” for students in the region, Welty said the consortium is vital to the valley’s future.

“It is critical that we increase the educational attainment of the residents of our region if we are going to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the Central California Valley.”

Tomlinson-Keasey said the Irvine grant allows the consortium to proceed with plans to improve articulation agreements, reach consensus on a general education curriculum and improve other aspects of the transfer process for students in our institutions.

“Our universities need to work closely and collaboratively with all segments of higher education to increase the college-going rate in our region,” she said

Dennis A. Collins, president and chief executive officer of The James Irvine Foundation based in San Francisco, said the Foundation’s support recognizes the efforts of Central Valley higher education leaders to bridge gaps in educational attainment.

“We are delighted to support the higher education leaders in the consortium as they work to increase the number of students going to college in the Central Valley,” he said. “We look forward to a productive partnership.”

The James Irvine Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation dedicated to enhancing the social, economic, and physical quality of life throughout California, and to enriching the State’s intellectual and cultural environment. The Foundation was established in 1937 by James Irvine, the California pioneer whose 110,000-acre ranch in Southern California was among the largest privately owned land holdings in the State. With assets of $1.6 billion, the Foundation makes grants of approximately $75 million annually for the people of California.