SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown has made a habit of criticizing California’s public colleges and universities for what he sees as a failure to adapt to the 21st century. Now he is putting the state’s money where his mouth is.

The governor has pledged $50 million to reward campuses with creative and cost-effective approaches to getting more students to earn degrees in less time. 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.

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Fifty-two schools – eight University of California campuses, 18 within the California State University system and 26 community colleges – are competing for the recognition. To be eligible, they had to submit 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. Winning proposals will need to show potential for statewide replication.

The one-time prize money, which finance staff is recommending to award in increments of at least $2.5 million, accounts for a tiny fraction of the $14.5 billion California is spending on higher education this year. But Bob Shireman, executive director of the college advocacy group California Competes, said it nonetheless gives campuses an incentive to adopt the kinds of programs and policies that Brown has been advocating.

“It’s pretty unusual for government to have this kind of prize money out there,” said Shireman, a former deputy undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education. “The backdrop is the debate over higher education funding in California and the governor’s perspective that higher education always wants more money and isn’t focused on how it can do things more efficiently … This is his effort to try to point to that issue and encourage a different approach.”

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California Competes and five other groups are hosting a forum Monday in Sacramento where representatives from most of the campuses 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.

The initiatives under consideration cover a broad swath of college life, from more intensive counseling early on to replacing expensive textbooks with online materials, and even targeting high school students for advance outreach and preparation.

Shireman’s organization asked 15 outside experts to review the applications in advance. Ideas that piqued their interest included a partnership between San Francisco City College and San Francisco State to create small learning communities that give students more support during their first two years of college and a clear path to transferring; Fresno State equipping students with tablet computers for courses that have been designed around the devices; and UC Irvine’s effort to persuade more students to take courses online and during the summer.

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Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.