College Access Network-Utah

History & Mission of CANU

In 2009, college and university practitioners and K-12 administrators started working informally to build an infrastructure between the public and higher education community that supports Utah underserved students in accessing and succeeding in college. This group was grounded in the common belief that working together is essential to our success in helping more Utah students achieve postsecondary success. In January 2011, we formalized this working group and joined the National College Access Network (NCAN) as the College Access Network of Utah (CAN U). This membership affords our network the ability to participate in NCAN’s programs, services, and professional development webinars and conferences.

The College Access Network of Utah’s mission is: To support and strengthen programs and services that encourage the access and attainment of higher education for Utah’s underserved, low-income, first generation, and historically underrepresented student populations, supporting the goal of 66 percent of all Utahns to have a credential beyond high school by 2020.

CANU’s Core Action Strategies

Advocacy: Promote equitable access and opportunities for all Utah students.

Professional Development: Identify, share, and support successful practices and programs that meet the needs of individual students congruent with their educational goals.

Partnership Development: Encourage statewide collaboration through bringing together practitioners in settings that allow participants opportunities to dialogue and share.

Resource Provider: Leverage and connect federal and state financial and talent force resources to strengthen, support, and grow programs and services.

Guiding Principles: Asset-based Approach, Sustainability, Collaboration, Accountability.

Currently our steering committee has representatives from all eight USHE institutions and Westminster College, Davis, Salt Lake, Granite and Canyons School Districts, the State Office of Education, direct service statewide access programs such as GEAR UP, TRIO, College Advising Corps, Utah Scholars, UHEAA, and other community and education partners such as 21 Century Community Learning Centers, Utah Campus Compact, Latinos in Action, United Way of Salt Lake, Utah Women and Education Initiative, Prosperity 2020.

Collective impact is described by the Stanford Social Innovation Review as a “disciplined effort to bring together dozens or even hundreds of organizations in a city (or field) to establish a common vision, adopt a shared set of measurable goals, and pursue evidence-based actions that reinforce one another’s work and further those goals.”

CAN U decided to use this framework to advance its work and launched six working groups outlined below to tackle different dimensions of the complex issue and to develop a common agenda of helping more Utahns have a credential beyond high school (focusing in on low-income and underserved specifically).

Working Groups:
Cascading Levels of Linked Collaboration

College Readiness & Success

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Define “College Readiness.”
  2. Determine a common understanding of barriers and a join approach to addressing needs.
  3. Identify best practices for building college readiness.
  4. Work with the data committee and LEA school administrators to identify practices/programs that demonstrate successful college readiness outcomes.

Public Policy and Advocacy

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Map out statewide landscape of legislation and political initiatives that affect K-16 education and higher education.
  2. Create mechanisms to communicate with and educate two groups/bodies:
    • (K-16) Education colleagues regarding legislative issues.
    • Legislators, community members, business leaders, and other persons of influence in higher education.

Family and Community Engagement

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Explore and define “Family and Community Engagement.”
  2. Determine what it would look like if we were successfully engaging families and communities.
  3. Explore what we are currently trying to achieve around family and community engagement that is not already true.

Program Collaboration and Mapping

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Continue program mapping work focusing on specific service regions both urban and rural, in an effort to add and refine the program search database.
  2. Begin initial gap analysis focusing on higher education access program target audiences, their location and services, to identify potential collaborations.
  3. Initiate discussions with secondary schools to map programs and services for underserved students.

Early Awareness and Outreach

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Determine common definition of “Early Awareness” and academic/social preparation for elementary and middle school students and families.
  2. Focus on Utah Core Standards; emphasis on equitable early childhood educational services.
  3. Address misperception of the importance of college.
  4. Address factors that facilitate and prohibit parental involvement.
  5. Map existing resources throughout the state.
  6. Invite others to the discussion within our working group.

Data Sharing and Assessment

Goals and Objectives:

  1. Establish common measures.
  2. Establish common definitions.
  3. Provide advocacy around data issues and barriers.
  4. Identify data sources.
  5. Create a data plan for College Access Network of Utah.


The working groups are co-chaired by at least one steering committee member and in most cases have another  co-chair representing higher education, K-12, and/or a community partners. The working groups have bought to CAN U cascading levels of linked collaboration. Working groups meet a few times a semester synthesizing research  and program innovations, cataloging best practices and developing policy considerations.   Members of CAN U gather annually for day retreat to connect on relevant issues and share best practices.