VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A local university is partnering with Visalia Unified to offer a pathway to higher education.

 Visalia Unified students are being offered automatic enrollment by UC Merced. The school district says this program is a game-changer for students. 

The partnership between Visalia Unified and UC Merced is to encourage more students to strive for higher education. 

Visalia Unified Superintendent Kirk Shrum says, “We are committed to high-quality learning experiences that allow students to reach their fullest potential and equipping students and staff with the education tools necessary.”

The district says 294 out of 2200 students from the previous graduating class attended a four university. 

Visalia Unified Superintendent Kirk Shrum continued, “We know as a county and as a valley, post-secondary education attainment are really low.“

Educators say 40 percent of its students are eligible, but only 15 percent pursue a secondary education. 

Requirements to be eligible for automatic enrollment are a 3.5 GPA along with completing English, Math, and Science courses.

UC Merced officials say there are a number of scholarships for those who may not be afford them. 

UC Merced Vice President of Student Affairs Charles Nies says, “Brett Reeves and his wife Missy just gave the university 15 million dollars to support scholarships for Central Valley youth to go to UC Merced.” 

The school district says its goal is to get 100% of its students eligible to go on to UC Merced and other 4-year schools.