Cal State San Bernardino has been awarded state funding to launch the California Student Opportunity Access Program (Cal-SOAP) in San Bernardino County to raise awareness among its underrepresented students about attending college and help them raise their academic achievement levels.

“We are thrilled that these funds will provide CSUSB the ability to expand its reach across the Inland Empire and transform our region by connecting under-resourced areas with new support services and programs that will strengthen the pipeline to higher education,” said Paz Olivérez, vice president of Student Affairs at CSUSB.   

Administered by the California Student Aid Commission, CSUSB, working with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, was awarded $908,557 earlier this year to begin the program in summer of 2020. Since the initial award, CSUSB has received an additional $1.4 million in funding through 2023.   

Services to students will include, but are not limited to, academic support, advising, tutoring, college application assistance, financial aid workshops and FAFSA application assistance, scholarship application assistance, parent engagement, summer programs and college tours. 

“Our goal is to ensure that critical information about how to prepare for and access higher education empowers students, families, and entire communities. Through education, we can make a difference,” said Olivérez.

CSUSB and the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools will work with K-12 school districts, including Apple Valley Unified, Barstow Unified, Hesperia Unified, Morongo Unified, Oro Grande Unified, Rialto Unified, Snowline Unified, Upland Unified, Victor Valley Unified and Yuciapa/Calimesa Joint Unified.

“As county superintendent, I am thrilled that our office is collaborating with several countywide school districts, community colleges and universities on the Cal-SOAP consortium. These grants over the next few years will provide tremendous postsecondary opportunities for students in our county,” said Ted Alejandre, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. “This collective effort shows how strong our region remains in working together to give our students the chance to pursue their dreams and educations.”

Higher education partners include Barstow, Chaffey, Copper Mountain, San Bernardino Valley and Victor Valley community colleges, Concorde Career College, the University of Redlands and UC Riverside.

Community partners include the BLU Educational Foundation, the California Colleges Guidance Initiative, the College Board, Congregations for Prophetic Engagements, Families in Schools, Growing Inland Achievement, the Inland Empire 66ers, the Superstar Foundation and the Thinkwise Credit Union.

Cal-SOAP was established by the state Legislature in 1978. Today, Cal-SOAP is instrumental in improving the flow of information about postsecondary education and financial aid while raising the achievement levels of low-income, elementary and secondary school students or geographic regions with documented low-eligibility or college participation rates, and who are first in their families to attend college.

Currently, 16 Cal-SOAP projects operate throughout California by consortia made up of secondary and postsecondary schools and community agencies. Cal-SOAP works in cooperation with other intersegmental outreach programs to avoid service duplication.

Including the Inland Empire, current Cal-SOAP projects include: Central Coast (Santa Maria), Central Valley (San Joaquin), East Bay/Solano (Oakland, Richmond and Solano County), Long Beach, Los Angeles, Merced, Northcoast (Eureka), Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego/Imperial, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, South County Gilroy, and South San Joaquin.

Because each project specializes in serving students within its community, the types of programs and services may differ. However, the projects share the common goal of improving the flow of information about postsecondary education and financial aid while raising achievement levels of targeted students. Some common services provided by the consortia include advising, tutoring, parent outreach, and college awareness workshops.