FPU and Visalia Unified Schools create path to student success

Goal is to build culture of college-going in Visalia say university, district leaders

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FPU President André Stephens, left, and VUSD Superintendent Kirk Shrum shake hands after signing a Memo of Understanding setting up a pathway for district students to be accepted and offered financial aid at the university. (Photo courtesy VUSD)

Fresno Pacific University is forging another pathway with an area school district—this time Visalia Unified School District—to provide guaranteed acceptance and other advantages for their graduates.

The plan is to “build a culture of college-going in Visalia,” university and district leaders said at an event announcing the partnership March 13, 2023, in the district office building in Visalia. “We have a lot of untapped potential, students who could do more,” said VUSD Superintendent Kirk Shrum.

“It is possible to get a four-year private education for less than a public university,” said FPU President André Stephens, citing the generous amount of financial aid the university makes available. Scholarships cover amounts up to full tuition.

The university and the district signed a memo of understanding (MOU), guaranteeing admission at FPU and a minimum financial aid package to qualified VUSD students. The university is also planning events at district high schools, including financial aid workshops and on-the-spot admissions days where students can complete the steps needed to attend FPU.

The MOU covers juniors who have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and have completed all requirements. There will be pipelines for students wishing to enter professions such as counseling, social workers and teaching.

VUSD already has a strong relationship with FPU, and the district is excited about strengthening those ties to serve students. “We have many teachers and student teachers in this room who went to Fresno Pacific or are adjuncts there,” Shrum said.

Visalia Unified School District has over 32,000 students in 42 schools, including four comprehensive and one technical high school. In the 2021-2022 school year, only 300 of the 2,000 graduating seniors enrolled in a four-year university, Shrum said. “That doesn’t have to be the story. Public and private institutions are affordable to our students.” (More at Visalia USD / Homepage (vusd.org))

Fresno Pacific University is the only accredited Christian university founded in the Central Valley, offering undergraduate, graduate and seminary programs to more than 3,000 students on five campuses and online. A Hispanic Serving Institution, U.S. News & World Report ranks it the top tier in the Western Universities—Master’s category and calls it a “Best Value.” (More at Fresno Pacific University)

An FPU education provides value not only through academic excellence but through values. “We not only need smart people, we need kind people as well,” Stephens said. “The issues of our nation are not just technical issues, they are heart issues.”

FPU has similar agreements with schools in Chawanakee Unified School District in Madera County and Chaffey Joint Union High School District in Ontario, CA. VUSD has a similar agreement with UC Merced.

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