Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College awarded $15M grant

On May 30, The California Department of Education awarded Orange County Department of Education, Orange County Career Pathways Partners and Saddleback College a one-time, $15 million grant as a part of the “Orange County Career Pathways Partnership” program.

According to a press release from the OCDE, the program was designed to make advanced classes available to all students in California and help guide students towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.

According to OCDE’s Chief Academic Officer Jeff Hittenberger, this grant is part of a $ 250 million dollar trust, distributed to recipients that meet the guidelines for the grant. The $250 million grant program was approved on July 01, 2013 by the California Legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown as Assembly Bill (AB) 86, Chapter 48.

This grant will serve Orange County’s 27 school districts, 15 of them are of secondary education, Hittenberger said.

“There have been increases of revenues for California in the last few years, we gone from being in a very deep deficit, to a place where the state beginning to start to invest again,” Hittenberger said. “This is one opportunity for investments.”

The state funding comes at a time when many students are paying out of pocket or taking out student loans to attend college and universities.

“We have reduced our investment of higher education in California over the past 30 years, and we put more and more of the cost on the student,” Hittenberger said. “I personally think, we need to reverse that, I think we need to invest again in higher education in California, to push our politicians. And as parents we have to advocate for our own kids to have opportunities that previous generations had in California. In a sense this grant is a kind of investment, and I’m very appreciative of that.”

In a press release, County Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares said, “This grant award is a recognition of the collaboration that has been forged among k-12 education, higher education, businesses, and community partners in Orange County. The funding will empower OCCCPP (Orange County Career Pathway Partnership)to achieve the vision of the countrywide infrastructure to better prepare students for the 21th century workplace and will provide a model for other countries and regional level programs. This initiative will further equip Orange County students to lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.”

In the same press release, Saddleback College President Tod Burnett said, “This partnership is an unprecedented effort to form an effective and lasting countrywide partnership to improve career pathways for all students that strengthen our local economy. We thank all of our K-12, college, university, business, and industry partners for their outstanding commitment to this effort.”