Introducing “The Pathway Series: Stories of Florida Students and Their Journey Through College”

August 23, 2017

Enrolled in approximately 400 colleges, universities and technical centers across the state are more than 1.5 million college students.  These students share similar goals, but will undoubtedly take different paths to get there.

That’s why we are excited to introduce “The Pathway Series: Stories of Florida Students and Their Journey Through College.” Over the course of the next year, FCAN will chronicle the diverse collegiate experiences of four Florida students to learn about their goals, ambitions, successes and setbacks. Read More

Florida College Access Network (FCAN) announces Twitter Takeover

September 21, 2017

FCAN’s Twitter page is about to be taken over!

The good news is this far from a hostile invasion. Instead, FCAN is temporarily turning over its Twitter page to a different local college access network (LCAN) for a day. Each LCAN will use the hashtag #TakeOverFCAN.

LCANs work together to coordinate and expand programs, services, and resources that remove the barriers preventing students from pursuing and completing postsecondary educational opportunities. Read More

Announcing Florida College Access Network’s new logo!

September 20, 2017

 width=Big news! Florida College Access Network (FCAN) has a new logo and brand identity. In the coming months you will increasingly see our new look on FCAN’s Facebook and Twitter pages, newsletter, and other materials, and in the near future you will see it in our redesigned website.

We believe that FCAN’s new look reflects who we are today: a statewide network at the heart of a movement to ensure all Floridians have the opportunity to achieve an education beyond high school and thrive in Florida’s dynamic economy. Read More

Cristina Cruz is taking advantage of an opportunity her parents didn’t have

September 19, 2017

Cristina Cruz

As she begins her first semester at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Cristina Cruz is well aware she is embarking on a path her parents didn’t get a chance to follow.

Cruz, 18, is a native of Mexico City and part of the first-generation in her family to attend college. Her two older brothers, Fernando Cruz and Jose Luis Cruz, are currently attending Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and Ave Maria University in Southwest Florida, respectively.

“My parents were unable to go to college…the lack of resources in Mexico made it very difficult for them to attend,” Cruz said. “It’s one of the main reasons we came to the United States.” Read More

Ep. 04 — Promoting the Event

September 18, 2017

At the risk of sounding too philosophical, if a school or community plans a College Ready Florida event, but no one knows about it…does it make an impact?

That’s the question host Amy Bolick tackles in this week’s podcast, which also outlines some of the different strategies and avenues available to site coordinators looking to promote College Ready Florida events. Among them are promotional materials and social media exposure courtesy of Florida College Access Network (FCAN). Read More

Call for Presentation Proposals: 2018 Florida College Access Network Summit

September 5, 2017

Submissions due October 16th

Florida College Access Network is pleased to issue a call for presentation proposals for the 2018 Florida College Access Network Summit, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Hotel in Orlando, Florida, on May 10-11, 2018.

To ensure all Floridians are prepared to prosper in Florida’s dynamic and changing economy, change-makers are working to increase postsecondary opportunities for students in their communities. The 2018 Florida College Access Network Summit will spotlight innovations, best practices, and collaborative initiatives that are helping Floridians— especially those traditionally underrepresented in higher education— access and achieve a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential. In the spirit of promoting the conversation and resources among leaders, professionals, and practitioners in college access and student success, we host our annual summit to highlight evidence-based approaches, lessons learned from the field, and policy developments that influence student success.

Now in its 6th year, the Florida College Access Network Summit is the “go-to” event where education stakeholders from multiple sectors come together to network, learn, and be inspired about Florida’s future. Read More

Ep. 03 — Forming a planning committee

September 5, 2017

So far, the College Ready Florida Podcast has outlined Florida College Access Network’s statewide initiatives and the role they could play in helping build a college-going culture for all Florida students.

Our latest installment gets into the nuts and bolts of how to actually make that happen at your school. This week, host Amy Bolick discusses the concept of forming a planning committee. Is a planning committee necessary for your school’s College Ready Florida event? If so, who should serve on it? Listen to our latest episode to find out! Read More

Jeremiah Espersen: The Army sergeant goes back to school

September 1, 2017

Jeremiah Espersen

Throughout the course of his 21-year career in the U.S. Army, Jeremiah Espersen got accustomed to being told precisely where to go, what to eat, and even when to go to the bathroom.

So after filing his retirement paperwork earlier this year, Espersen found himself searching for some direction.

“When it came down to planning what I was going to do next, I had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘What do I like to do?’” Espersen said. “And the honest answer was, ‘I didn’t know.’”

This fall, the 39-year-old Espersen is continuing his education after graduating from high school more than 20 years ago to pursue a bachelor’s degree in postsecondary education at Trinity Baptist College (TBC) in Jacksonville. His plan is to ultimately teach high school math and English. Espersen arrived at that career path after examining the most fulfilling parts of an Army career that began right after high school. Read More

2018 National Student Success Conference set for February

August 24, 2017

The inaugural National Student Success Conference, a collaboration between the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities and the University of South Florida, will take place February 21-23 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

In past years, the consortium has coordinated an annual gathering that brought together administrators, student success thought leaders, and faculty from Florida International University, University of Central Florida, and University of South Florida.

The theme of the inaugural national conference is “Innovators and Innovations.” Read More

Melissa Shank is a late addition to the honor roll

August 24, 2017

Melissa Shank

As a teenager struggling through her senior year at West Orange High School 20 years ago, Melissa Shank never would have imagined that one day a “B” would cause so much frustration.

“I failed math like seven times. I couldn’t pass algebra to save my life,” Shank said of her high school days in Winter Garden, just west of Orlando. “I dropped out my senior year, three days before my graduation.”

This fall, Shank, 37, began classes at Rollins College in Winter Park after graduating with honors from Valencia College with associate’s degrees in general studies and business administration.

She almost made it through her two years at Valencia with a spotless GPA, save for that single pesky “B” in an honors course.

“I came home and I was crying about how I failed and talking about how I wanted to quit school,” Shank said. “When I told my mom it was because I’d gotten a B, she told me to shut up. If I’d done this (college) directly out of high school, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.” Read More

What you need to know about Summer Pell

August 22, 2017

The Pell Grant is the largest source of need-based aid available to low-income Americans.  Over the summer, Congress expanded use of the program to allow eligible students to use the grants during the summer term.  It’s being referred to as “Summer Pell” or “Year-round Pell.”  Here is a brief overview of how it affects Florida students.

Why is Summer Pell important?

Until recently, Pell recipients faced a major challenge: they could not receive Pell Grant money over the summer. This was because students could only use their award for two full-time semesters out of every school year. If students used their Pell Grant to cover costs for the fall and spring semester, they would have to rely on loans, other grants, or scholarships to cover summer costs.

In the 2015-2016 school year alone, 536,909 Florida students received almost $1.94 billion in Pell Grants.  This money is a way for students to fund their undergraduate or technical education that, unlike loans, does not require repayment.  As a proportion of undergraduate enrollment, about 40% of Florida students receive a Pell Grant, which is 4th highest among all states. Read More

IRS Data Retrieval Tool returns in time for 2018-19 FAFSA

August 18, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is once again available to assist those applying online for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan or filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) later this year.

Established in September 2010, the IRS DRT provides tax data that automatically fills in information for part of the FAFSA form, as well as the income-driven repayment plan application for federal student loan borrowers.

In a joint-statement released in March by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) and the IRS, it was confirmed that the DRT was taken down as a precautionary step while officials work to strengthen the security of information provided by the tool.

FSA and IRS announced on May 3 that the DRT would not be returning for the 2017-18 FAFSA form, but the tool would be available to use on the 2018-19 FAFSA form on when it launches Oct. 1, 2017. Read More

Ep. 01 — Introducing Florida CAN’s College Ready Florida Podcast!

August 16, 2017

We are thrilled to share with you the debut episode of our College Ready Florida Podcast!

Amy Bolick, Florida CAN’s statewide programs coordinator, is the host of this new podcast, which will outline the many tools and resources available to counselors and other educators interested in participating or learning more about Florida CAN’s initiatives.

Our first episode features Amy offering an overview of our College Ready Florida initiatives: Apply Yourself Florida, the Florida FAFSA Challenge, and Florida College Decision Day.

Schools and organizations can register to host events related to Florida CAN’s College Ready Florida initiatives by filling out this form.

Download and subscribe to the College Ready Florida Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and the Google Play Music store. Read More

Florida offers third highest number of good jobs for workers without a bachelor’s degree

August 4, 2017

There are currently more than 30 million jobs in the U.S. with a median salary of $55,000 for workers without a bachelor’s degree, according to new research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

And with more than 1.5 million such jobs, Florida has the third highest total in the nation.

These figures are part of the “Good Jobs that Pay without a B.A.” report, which defines “good jobs” as offering a median salary of $55,000 per year and a minimum annual salary of $35,000. Read More

New resources on the way for Apply Yourself Florida and other statewide initiatives

July 28, 2017

The start of the fall semester is still several weeks away, but Florida CAN has already devised some new ways to help high schools guide their students through the college-going process.

In August, Florida CAN will introduce its “College Ready Florida” podcast series, which will serve as a source of information for the College Ready Florida statewide initiatives, starting with Apply Yourself Florida.

Apply Yourself Florida — also known as Florida College Application Week — is part of the national American College Application Campaign. The campaign aims to increase the number of students pursuing a college degree or high-quality credential by encouraging high schools to dedicate time during a normal school day to have seniors fill out at least one application to a college or technical school with the support of trained volunteers from the school and community.

Last year, 146 schools participated in the statewide campaign and almost 30 schools have already signed up to host Apply Yourself Florida events in October and November of this year.

The College Ready Florida podcast will be hosted by Amy Bolick, Florida CAN’s statewide programs coordinator. Each episode is 10 minutes or less and will offer an overview of the many tools and resources available to counselors and other educators interested in participating or learning more about Florida CAN’s initiatives. The first episode is scheduled to debut Aug. 14.

In addition to the podcast, Florida CAN offers toolkits, guides, materials such as “I Applied” stickers and event posters, individual assistance and incentives for schools and organizations that register to host College Ready Florida initiatives through this form. Florida CAN is also available to provide site coordinator training to interested school districts.

For more information about the College Ready Florida initiatives and how to participate, please contact Amy Bolick at 813-974-6429 or


Encore Fellowship matches software specialist with City of Miami to benefit youth

July 26, 2017

Kevin Vericker

Kevin Vericker enjoys making light of his extensive experience with analytic software.

“It feels like I’ve been doing this since the Eisenhower administration,” Vericker said of his work, which involves describing, predicting, and improving the development, maintenance, and management of complex software systems. “I’ve actually been working with software since the 1980s, specifically in the area of analytics supporting government projects.”

Throughout his career, Vericker said his work has taken him from the private sector to the Pentagon. He is currently employed at IBM, which is where he became aware of an intriguing new professional opportunity.

“IBM offered me the opportunity to talk with Encore,” Vericker said. Encore Fellowships seek to match seasoned professionals with social purpose organizations in paid transitional assignments, but Vericker, 62, puts his experience in plainer terms. “I am comfortable with the o-word, so I’ll say their premise is to help older employees apply what they’ve learned in private enterprise for the public good.” Read More

FutureMakers Coalition releases baseline report for SWFL

July 24, 2017

A report recently released by the FutureMakers Coalition outlined a series of attainment improvement goals for Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties in Southwest Florida (SWFL).

The timeline for achieving these goals is eight years, and they include lifting high school graduation rates, increasing business/education partnerships, boosting the number of local postsecondary graduates employed and earning living wages within the five-county area, and more.

According to the report, “data continues to be a cornerstone of the FutureMakers Coalition’s work and is used as a flashlight to point each of us toward the opportunities we seek for the region.”

But gathering that data was no small task. Read More

Georgetown report urges states to help students make more informed college and career decisions

July 18, 2017

“Where should I go to college?” and “What should I study?” are two of the core questions faced by learners looking to pursue their postsecondary education

However, a new study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce posits that students are presented with far too many potential answers.

The study — “Career Pathways: Five Ways to Connect College and Careers” — revealed that the number of colleges and universities in the U.S. more than doubled from 1,850 to 4,720 between 1950 and 2014. Additionally, the number of postsecondary study programs more than quintupled — growing from 410 to 2,260 — between 1985 and 2010. Read More

Florida ranks third in nationwide FAFSA completion

July 13, 2017

From left, Steve Rios, Jessica Brock, and Ralph Aiello accept Florida FAFSA Challenge trophies during the 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit. Florida ranked third in nationwide FAFSA completion during the 2016-17 school year.

The Sunshine State has earned a spot on the nationwide FAFSA completion podium!

Florida had the third highest year-to-year increase of any state in the number of total Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filings during the 2016-17 school year, according to the National College Access Network. The state’s 19% improvement trailed only Utah (33%) and Wyoming (22%).  Florida is the third most-populous state in the country, compared to Utah (30th) and Wyoming (51st, after D.C.).

Overall, 49 states and Washington, D.C. saw gains in the total number of FAFSAs filed. (Rhode Island, which already had a high FAFSA completion rate and saw a dip in the number of seniors this past school year, was the lone exception.) The U.S. collectively reversed a four-year decline by improving the rate of all FAFSA filings by 6% during the 2016-17 school year.

NCAN notes the nationwide FAFSA completion rate for the high school class of 2017 — which was the focus of a new policy that opened FAFSA filing in October rather than January — was 61%, which represents an improvement of five percentage points from the class of 2016.

Florida’s 2017 senior class increased during the 2016-17 school year, growing by 3% in public schools alone (more than 5,000 students). The state increased the number of FAFSAs filed by 17,000, bolstered in part by statewide campaigns like the Florida FAFSA Challenge, which challenged schools and districts to increase their FAFSA completion rates by 5% or more compared to the previous year. Read More

TheDream.US awards National Scholarships to 172 Florida students

July 10, 2017

After receiving a record number of qualified applicants, TheDream.US recently announced it has awarded more than 1,200 scholarships to students with undocumented immigration status who plan to attend college this fall.

Collectively, these DREAMers will receive up to $30 million in scholarship funds. The organization’s National Scholarship Award covers each recipient’s tuition and fees up to a maximum of $25,000 for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at one of TheDream.US’s 75 partner colleges throughout the country.

We know these scholarships will change the trajectory of our scholars’ lives and the lives they touch,” said Candy Marshall, TheDream.US President, in a press release.

This year’s recipients include 172 DREAMers in Florida who will be receiving upwards of $4.3 million in scholarships.

As previously reported by Florida CAN, some DREAMer students in Florida can qualify for in-state tuition rates, but are not eligible for federal or state financial aid dollars, making the scholarships provided by TheDream.US even more valuable for the students chosen for the awards. Read More

Florida College System panel emphasizes benefits of partnerships, collective impact strategies at Learners to Earners summit

June 22, 2017

From left, Marlene Spalten, Madeline Pumariega, Mike O’Neill, and Ava Parker take part in “A Conversation With Florida’s State College System: Securing Pathways for Florida’s Future Earners” panel during the 2017 Learners to Earners Education Summit. Photo by Colin Hackley.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Learners to Earners Education Summit recently brought together leaders from the state’s business, education, and workforce development communities to discuss best practices in connecting today’s learners to tomorrow’s career opportunities.

The two-day event — which took place June 13-14 in Orlando — featured a panel titled, “A Conversation with Florida’s State College System: Securing Pathways for Florida’s Future Earners.” Part of the conversation focused on the effect that collective impact and the work of local college access networks (LCANs) can have in shaping the state’s future.

“What’s interesting about the attainment conversation is that education is everybody’s business,” said Ava Parker, president of Palm Beach State College and a member of LCAN Achieve Palm Beach County. “There needed to be a shift in our community to start the conversation and build the expectation that a high school diploma is not enough.” Read More

Gulf County sweeps Florida FAFSA Challenge for small school districts

June 19, 2017

School counselors Jessica Brock of Port St. Joe High School, left, and Karen Turner of Wewahitchka High School show off Gulf District Schools’ Florida FAFSA Challenge trophies.

Following the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, prizes were awarded to the schools and districts that had the highest FAFSA completion rate (“MVP”), the greatest year-to-year increase (“Most Improved), and best week-to-week improvement during the campaign (“Biggest Boost”).

Gulf District Schools was the only challenge participant to sweep all three categories and earn the FAFSA Challenge Triple Crown! Read More

Sarasota County wins state FAFSA completion award

June 13, 2017

Talent4Tomorrow partners and Sarasota County Schools officials accept the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge award for “MVP for Large School District.”

The following item was originally published in the June 12 edition of Sarasota Chamber Buzz, an e-newsletter published by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T) is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% of Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell Grant dollars awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, schools in Sarasota County earned the following honors: Read More

Orange County’s “Most Improved” FAFSA Challenge performance leads to more than $5.5 million in additional Pell Grant dollars

June 12, 2017

Liz Smith, assistant principal of instruction at Boone High School, accepts the school’s Florida FAFSA Challenge trophy. Orange County schools occupied eight of the Top 10 slots for “Most Improved” large high schools (more than 416 12th graders) in the state.

Financial Aid Nights, text messages, and free laptops.

Those are just a few of the ways Orange County Public Schools, Central Florida College Access Network, and their partners went about informing and incentivizing high school seniors toward completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Overall, Florida high schools improved FAFSA completion by 9.1% during the Florida FAFSA Challenge this past school year. By the end of the campaign on March 31, 54 school districts and 390 high schools had met or surpassed the statewide goal of improving FAFSA completion by 5% compared to the previous year.

While that represents a tremendous gain for the state as a whole, Orange County outpaced the rest of the state in terms of year-to-year improvement.

Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) topped all large school districts — those with more than 1,000 12th graders — by increasing FAFSA completion by 16.1% compared to last year. Additionally, all 19 OCPS high schools met the statewide 5% goal, and Orange County schools occupied eight of the Top 10 slots for Most Improved large high schools (more than 416 12th graders) in the state, including the Top 7 slots.

“We are very pleased about the increase,” said Barbara Jenkins, OCPS superintendent, in a press release. “It is the result of an intense focus on student achievement by our college and career counselors in every high school and the commitment of our principals and staff to lead our students to success.” Read More

Think Florida website offers new tools for business leaders

June 2, 2017

More than a year after launching its “Think Florida: A Higher Degree for Business” campaign, the State University System of Florida (SUS) has announced the addition of tools aimed at giving business leaders access to new recruitment and informational resources.

The revamped Think Florida website hosts multi-purpose tools from the state’s career resource centers along with ExpertNet, an online hub that provides information about university experts, research centers, and opportunities for technology licensing. The site also aids employers by connecting them to Florida’s 12 universities to help with recruiting interns or employees. Read More

Highlights from 2017 Florida College Decision Day

June 1, 2017

The latest iteration of Florida College Decision Day was marked by pep rallies, pennants, prize patrols, and much more.

This year, 99 Florida high schools participated in Florida College Decision Day, the state’s adoption of Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room campaign, which was launched in 2015 and recognizes all students for their postsecondary plans the same way athletes and other high-profile, college-bound students are celebrated.

The campaign typically takes place on and around May 1, but several schools in the state got a head start on the festivities in mid-to-late April. To share some of the sights, sounds, and social media buzz generated at this year’s Decision Day events, we’ve created a Storify that captures many of this year’s highlights. Read More

Miami chapter of Take Stock in Children celebrates record-breaking graduating class

May 31, 2017

Cindy Lozada is excited to venture somewhere her parents never got to go.

“In my family, it’s really a big deal that I’m going to college because my parents didn’t go,” said Lozada, 18, who recently graduated from Miami Senior High School. In the fall, she is slated to begin attending classes at Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican campus, where she is enrolled in MDC’s School of Education.

Before embarking on her collegiate career, Lozada was recently celebrated for being part of Take Stock in Children – Miami’s Class of 2017. On May 25, the organization hosted its annual Senior Scholarship Ceremony at MDC’s Wolfson Campus.

The 189-member graduating class was the largest in TSIC Miami’s 21-year history, according to executive director Joanne Messing. She estimated the value of the scholarships awarded during the ceremony to be about $1.7 million. Read More

Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council discusses statewide postsecondary attainment goal at Florida CAN Summit

May 25, 2017

From left are HECC members Ken Burke, Madeline Pumariega, and Andy Tuck

Ken Burke empathizes with the challenges faced by non-traditional students seeking a college degree.

“When you’re 30 years old, that’s over a third of your life since the last time you were in an education environment,” said Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court in Pinellas County and Vice Chair of Florida’s Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC). “If I had to take a college math course at 30 years old with my last course being 12 years before, I would not be able to succeed without a lot of help.”

Burke and two of his fellow HECC members — Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega and State Board of Education Vice Chair Andy Tuck — recently took part in a panel discussion focused on the different ways Florida’s business, government, philanthropic, and educational communities have come together to provide that help for all the state’s students.

The panel was titled “Florida’s New Postsecondary Attainment Goal” and took place during the 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit on May 10. The discussion was moderated by Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, who praised HECC’s adoption of an attainment goal. Read More

Highlights from the 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit

May 23, 2017

More than 250 people attended the 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit, and a good number of them had plenty to say. (And tweet!)

This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers,” and the event served as a wonderful opportunity for professionals from multiple sectors — including business and community leaders, K-12 educators and counselors, postsecondary administrators, and more — to learn about new resources, network with colleagues, and share best practices in their efforts to improve college access and success for all Floridians.

In order to help convey some of the sights and sounds of our summit earlier this month, we’ve created a Storify item that includes pictures and videos from the event. We’ve also collected social media posts from summit attendees and other well-wishers who shared their thoughts (and their pics) throughout the course of the two-day event, which included more than 25 sessions centered around breaking down barriers to student success.

Click here to view our Storify story on the summit.


2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit — PowerPoint Presentations

May 18, 2017

The 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit is in the rear-view mirror, and we’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who attended and showed their support. More than 250 people from multiple sectors — including business and community leaders, K-12 counselors and educators, college access practitioners, postsecondary administrators and more — attended this year’s two-day event, which included more than 25 sessions!

By popular demand, we have gathered all available slides from presenters during the summit!

Summit PowerPoint Presentations (available as PDFs)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pre-Summit Session (9:00 AM- 11:00 AM)

LCAN Collaborative Workshop: Building Ambassadors from the Inside Out

General Session (11:30 AM- 1:30 PM)

Welcome Luncheon — Better Together: Breaking Barriers

Read More

St. Johns River State College takes proactive approach to college access initiatives

May 17, 2017

Florida College Decision Day, the state’s adoption of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room campaign, seeks to recognize all students for their postsecondary plans. As part of the initiative, high schools typically host pep rallies, programs, and other activities adorned with collegiate gear to help foster a college-going culture.

St. Johns River State College in Palatka decided to flip that script and bring Florida College Decision Day to a group of stunned high school seniors.

On May 1, SJR State dispatched five different “prize patrols” to surprise 27 full-tuition scholarship winners at 13 high schools in St. Johns, Clay, and Putnam counties. The recipients — each of whom had designated SJR State as their “college of choice” — were presented with balloons, a candy bouquet, and an SJR State portfolio to go along with their scholarship announcement.

Daniel Barkowitz, SJR State’s dean of enrollment management, said the school got the idea from a video posted by Wheaton College in Massachusetts that involved surprising an early decision candidate by delivering her acceptance notice in person.

“We were talking about what we wanted to do around College Decision Day and around mid-to-late March, I said, ‘What if we did a prize patrol?’” Barkowitz said. “We put this whole thing together in about six weeks.” Read More

Poet Shawn Welcome shares unconventional path to academic success at Florida CAN Summit

May 16, 2017

Shawn Welcome’s long and winding road to getting his bachelor’s degree required the same perseverance and determination he describes in “Rio,” a poem he wrote last year as a tribute to the Refugee Olympic Team in Brazil.

“It felt really good and, in a way, school was solace,” Welcome said of his recent college graduation. The 34-year-old performance poet earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Central Florida on May 4. “Without context, it’s difficult to understand why it took so long and why I felt so good that day.”

The Brooklyn native discovered an affinity for a rap — both in freestyle and written form — during his senior year at John Jay High School in New York City.

“I’d heard rap music growing up, but it was a distant thing…something that professionals and celebrities did,” Welcome said. “As a kid, I liked writing and it was a strength, but I didn’t really consider doing anything with it.”

Welcome, who lived in New York and Central Florida throughout his middle school and high school years, enrolled in Valencia College in Orlando in January 2002. He was interested in becoming a teacher, but lacked the guidance to follow that particular career track.

“This one lady told me that marketing was a good path, so that’s what I wrote down at first, even though I had no idea what that was,” he said. “In my heart, I could see myself teaching because I knew that when I learned something, I really enjoyed sharing it with people.”

In 2005, Welcome earned an Associate’s Degree in General Studies. He enrolled at Barry University’s School of Adult and Continuing Education in Orlando in early 2006, but found his academic pursuits momentarily derailed. Read More

Florida FAFSA Challenge yields more than $37 million in additional Pell Grants awarded to high school seniors

April 26, 2017

Florida’s year-to-year improvement in FAFSA completion through the end of March resulted in more than $37 million in additional Pell Grant dollars being awarded to graduating seniors this school year!

That’s according to research conducted by Florida College Access Network following the completion of the organization’s statewide 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, which sought to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Overall, the state improved FAFSA completion by 9.1%, which exceeded the 5% goal established by the campaign.

“Our research shows that completing the FAFSA is a top predictor of whether a high school’s graduating high school class attends college,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s associate director for research and policy. “This is a huge gain in one year and will surely lead to more students attending college and in the long run, contributing to our state’s economy and work force.” Read More

Middleton High in Tampa hosts College Decision Day event

April 25, 2017

College-bound star athletes aren’t the only ones who deserve a little hype and hoopla when they announce their postsecondary plans.

To that end, George S. Middleton High School in Tampa recently hosted its second annual National College Signing Day. The event is a spinoff of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, which seeks to inspire students to pursue and complete their education past high school.

As part of the Reach Higher initiative, Ms. Obama launched the Better Make Room campaign in 2015. The campaign seeks to recognize all students for their postsecondary plans the same way athletes and other high-profile, college-bound students are celebrated. Florida College Decision Day is the state’s adoption of the former First Lady’s initiative and is held annually on and around May 1. So far, more than 80 schools and organizations are slated to host College Decision Day events in Florida this year. Read More

Florida College Access and Success Summit to explore the state of scholarship innovation

April 24, 2017

Some of the more established scholarship funding models have been struggling to keep up with the level of demand.

Michelle Boehm, research and evaluation analyst for the Helios Education Foundation, said the desire to serve minority, low-income, first-generation, and other underrepresented sectors of the student population has helped drive some of the more innovative scholarship funding developments in recent years.

“The evolution of traditional scholarship models has been influenced by an inadequate ability to meet the needs of our nation’s traditionally underrepresented students and a growing recognition that helping students enroll in college isn’t enough,” Boehm said.

She added that tracking the impact and outcomes of scholarship funds that are administered is another significant challenge.

“Students also require support — both financial and non-financial — to persist and complete,” Boehm said. Read More

Florida CAN announces 2017 FAFSA Challenge winners!

April 19, 2017

Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a statewide campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid!

Through March 31, 54 school districts and 390 high schools have increased the number of seniors who completed the federal financial aid form by at least 5% over last year, contributing to a statewide gain of 9.1%.  This translates to over $37 million more in Pell grant dollars alone for graduating seniors to help pay the cost of college. (Click here for a district-by-district breakdown of the estimated change in Pell grant dollars awarded.)

“The boost in Florida’s FAFSA completions this year is phenomenal and a credit to the schools, districts, and community partners who have worked passionately to ensure all of our students have the resources to attend college,” said Laurie Meggesin, Florida CAN’s executive director.  “This is a real game-changer for the thousands of students and families impacted by this collective effort.” Read More

Clark Elementary students to get hands-on STEM experience

April 14, 2017

College Culture Classroom grant exposes kids to career options

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a popular question for elementary school students, even if the answer tends to evolve as they progress through each grade level and inch closer to having to make more definitive decisions about their postsecondary plans.

“A lot of them say they want to be engineers,” said Michelle Payton, 5th grade math and science teacher at Clark Elementary School in Tampa. Payton said her students’ career aspirations have been a topic of conversation throughout the school year. “It might seem a bit strange to start now since they’re only in 5th grade, but they have to start seeing connections between what they enjoy doing and the careers that are out there for them.”

To that end, Payton authored a proposal in the fall requesting four STEM Challenge Kits, a Magna-Tiles Master Set, and a STEM Careers Book Set for her 34 5th graders. The project was funded by Extra Yard for Teachers thanks to a generous grant from the Helios Education Foundation presented in partnership with the College Football Playoff Foundation, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, and Florida College Access Network in a grant program that encouraged public school teachers in the tri-county Tampa Bay region to create a college-going culture in their classrooms. Read More