Efforts to address the South Valley teacher shortage are getting a boost from a new scholarship fund available for students transferring from College of the Sequoias into the Integrated Teacher Education Program at Fresno State’s Visalia campus.

The program allows students to transfer from a nearby community college (COS, Porterville College or West Hills – Lemoore) and complete their bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies with a multiple subject teaching credential in just two additional years, all while staying in the South Valley.

By creating a $1,000 scholarship for any COS graduate who transfers into Fresno State’s Integrated Teacher Education Program, the COS Foundation is helping to answer the need for teachers in the region by further improving access for students, some of whom do not have the means or the time to relocate or commute to Fresno to attend courses.

“The College of the Sequoias already has an academy for police, we have an academy for fire and we have a nursing program. So we just felt that being able to be a part of a process that allows us to build our own local teachers was really exciting,” said COS Foundation director Tim Foster.

A Strengthening Partnership

The relationship between Fresno State and COS dates back to the 1980s. Fresno State began teaching courses on the COS campus in an effort to bring upper division courses not offered at the community college level to the South Valley.

The courses evolved into distance learning education. Fresno State faculty taught courses from the Fresno State campus and televised them in classrooms in Visalia, Hanford and Lemoore. Over time, technology improved and allowed Fresno State to offer online courses to students who lived in the South Valley and would have otherwise had to commute to the Fresno State campus.

In 2016, a 10,000-square-foot building on the COS campus became the Fresno State Visalia campus. The satellite campus allows Fresno State to offer bachelor’s-level degree programs in the South Valley. Fresno State has about 4,300 students who commute from the South Valley to Fresno County.

Next Steps in Visalia

Dr. Luz Gonzalez, dean of the Fresno State Visalia campus, was born and raised in Tulare County and is passionate about the growth of the South Valley. “Developing a branch campus for Fresno State that would serve Tulare, Kings and northern Kern counties was an exciting opportunity for me,” Gonzalez said.

The Visalia campus currently offers bachelor’s degree programs in liberal studies and business administration, and plans to offer nursing in fall 2019. The campus also offers two graduate degrees, in public administration and multilingual multicultural education.

“What we are doing is looking at those majors with a high population of students from the South Valley and saying, ‘What can we do to alleviate [their commute]?’ If that is offering one or two core courses, that’s a big break for students,” Gonzalez said.

The partnership between COS and Fresno State is intended to expand opportunities for South Valley students and make higher education more accessible while addressing a regional need.

“Both institutions have really stepped up their game and formed a really solid partnership for the benefit of the region,” Gonzalez said.