Rising above and bridging gaps; this is the goal of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ new RISE Education Fund. Many students who were at an educational disadvantage even before COVID-19 are struggling more now due to challenges presented by the pandemic. For this reason, Polis established the Response, Innovation and Student Equity (RISE) Fund.
RISE is a program in which schools, school districts, and public degree-granting institutions of higher education, according to the official state website, and other systems in Colorado can apply for grant money. Polis hopes that the RISE Fund will address learning disparities due to the coronavirus.
These funds come from federal stimulus dollars and are a part of the governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Each school or program looking to receive grant money must fill out an in-depth application.
The fund totals $32.7 million and applicants can apply for amounts “between $250,000 and $4,000,000, depending on the size of the applicant, number of children served and quality of the application,” according to the website. The point of this grant is for education systems to provide students with equal opportunity learning and address the issues that they believe are most important in their schools.
Several sectors of UCCS are looking to apply for grant money from the RISE Grant, with applications due on Oct. 17.
Jevita Rogers, senior executive director of UCCS’ Office of Financial Aid, explains that if UCCS were to be awarded grant money, it would likely go toward four major categories.
First, it would support the creation of innovative ways to keep students engaged both inside and outside of the classroom. It would also be put toward rethinking the way UCCS educates students in order to increase graduation and retention rates, while also working to lessen the time that it takes to receive a degree and creating strong ties between K-12 schools, colleges and workplaces.
Also, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically altered the job market landscape, so strong connections between educational institutions and employers would create a “win-win” scenario, ensuring that students find jobs after graduation and that employers have a pool of qualified candidates.
Finally, funding would be used for “catalyzing innovations for pre-K and higher education that can drive long-term impact after the life of the grant,” said Rogers. The goal is for continued cooperation between school systems from pre-K to post-secondary in order to reduce costs and provide better resources for students and families.
Rogers notes that it is still too soon to tell exactly what the monies would go toward for UCCS. Funds will be allocated based on many different criteria.
Priority will be given to schools and systems that “serve a rural community; or propose to serve schools or districts with priority improvement or turnaround plan types, and address significant academic gaps between students based on income, race or ethnic group, status as an English learner or disability status,” according to the Colorado website.
Award winners will be announced on the Nov. 6 and grant money will be ready for use by Sept. 30, 2022.