WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com/AP) — A $50 million competition was underway Monday among dozens of California universities and community colleges to come up with new approaches to help student earn degrees in less time.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports UCLA is among eight University of California campuses competing for the recognition under an effort spearheaded by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Fifty-two schools in all statewide have submitted applications describing steps they already are taking to increase the number of Californians who earn bachelor’s degrees within four years and to make it easier to students who start their studies at two-year colleges to finish at four-year universities.

Representatives from most of the campuses taking part in the competition will be on hand a a forum Monday in Sacramento where they will have three minutes each to present their ideas, lightning round-style, to an audience of business leaders, elected officials and members of the committee charged with judging the entries.

Winning proposals will need to show potential for statewide replication.

Brown staffers are recommending the prize money to be dole out in increments of about $2.5 million, which accounts for a tiny fraction of the $14.5 billion California is spending on higher education this year.

Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors, which helps parents and students with college financial aid, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO California’s competition is unique.

“I think this is the first state to offer this,” Kantrowitz said. “It’s sort of like the [Space]X prize, using money as a carrot to try and drive innovation.”

But at least one student at UCLA had a very specific purpose in mind if the school were to award the prizes money.

“Financial aid,” she said.

A seven-member committee chaired by Brown’s finance director is scheduled to name the winners of the California Awards for Innovation in Higher Education later this month.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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