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Sun Valley Conference.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has scored $1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the state's colleges.

During the next 18 months, the grant from the Completion Innovation Challenge is meant to help the state's community college system and the California State University system align requirements for at least 10 degrees.

Some transfer students take as many as 40 more units than the 120 needed to graduate from the CSU system because many of its universities don't count some community college units. Amid budget cuts, that has amounted to crowded classrooms and wasted money, according to Linda Michalowski, a vice chancellor for the community college system.

A state law that went into effect this year is intended to encourage transfer students to take 60 units at a community college and the remaining 60 units within the CSU system. Community college officials say that will save the system $160 million a year. So far, for example, the systems have agreed to simplify transfer requirements for a bachelor's degree program in communications studies as well as a few other majors.

Part of the grant will be used to facilitate meetings between faculty and officials from the two systems, including costs for staff, travel and renting meeting space, Michalowski said.

"This stuff doesn't take care of itself," she said. "You need an active manager to coordinate all of this."

The rest of the money is earmarked for marketing the new simplified degree paths to high school counselors and students.

Thirty-three governors applied for 10 grants of $1 million each, according to Tom Sugar, the spokesman for challenge organizer Complete College America. California was announced as the first winner this morning. The other nine winners will be unveiled in the next two weeks.

Sugar said earning the grant was "no small accomplishment" and that the group applauded California for turning to a "robust system to make a real dent in college graduation rates."

PHOTO CREDIT: Bill Gates arrives at the Sun Valley Inn for the 2011 Allen and Co. Sun Valley Conference in Idaho on July 7. (AP Photo/ Julie Jacobson).


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