FCAN and local college access networks share examples of community collaboration during Florida House panel on postsecondary attainment

November 20, 2017

Florida College Access Network (FCAN) led a panel discussion before the Florida House of Representatives Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee on November 16 about the many ways communities throughout the state are collaborating to boost postsecondary attainment.

FCAN previously presented in front of the subcommittee on the same topic in January alongside representatives of local college access networks LEAP and Earn Up, which serve Tampa Bay and Northeast Florida, respectively. LCANs are multi-sector, strategic alliances of leaders and institutions that work together to improve educational access and attainment beyond high school in their communities.  Joining FCAN were representatives of local college access networks Achieve Escambia, Central Florida College Access Network and FutureMakers Coalition.

Laurie Meggesin, FCAN executive director, remarked that the work of such cross-sector initiatives that support postsecondary attainment has grown considerably since early 2017:  “Since we presented to you back in January, the footprint of local college access networks has grown from 50 percent to 75 percent of the state.”

Meggesin presented alongside representatives from three LCANs and Nicole Washington, higher education policy consultant for Lumina Foundation.

“Education is the strongest indicator of economic prosperity in healthy communities,” Washington said. She added that while Florida joins about 40 states in the country now working towards an attainment goal, the movement isn’t about just picking a number and ‘checking a box.’

“Attainment is not about producing more degrees for the sake of producing more degrees.  It really is about meeting the workforce demand.”

Lumina has partnered with the Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC), which last year unanimously voted to adopt an attainment goal, called “RISE to 55,” for 55 percent of working-age Floridians will hold a high-quality postsecondary credential by 2025. The partnership to boost postsecondary attainment also includes Helios Education Foundation, Florida Chamber Foundation, and Florida Philanthropic Network, along with FCAN and local college access networks from regions throughout Florida.

The highlight of Thursday’s panel discussion was examples of collaborative initiatives from LCANs serving Northwest, Central, and Southwest Florida.

Jennifer McFarren, community development representative for Pensacola-based Gulf Power Company, spoke about Achieve Escambia and how changes in technology have impacted the energy industry in recent years compared to previous decades.

“For our company and for our industry, we simply don’t hire unskilled workers,” said McFarren, whose company employs about 1,400 in the region. “Our careers require a variety of levels of educational attainment for entry.  Some with a high school diploma with an industry certification, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, a master’s degree and even Ph.D.’s for some of our jobs.”

McFarren asserted that better outreach and more collaboration is what is needed to sustain a qualified and diverse workforce.

“We need pathways that encourage and empower people to pursue attainment and career progression with a variety of on ramps and off ramps.  Attainment isn’t simply a ladder.  It often looks like a jungle gym sometimes.  But, we can only accomplish this through strong partnerships.”

Enter Achieve Escambia, the community’s first cradle-to-career collective impact effort. McFarren said that in addition to the expected participation from the area’s education and nonprofit sectors, Achieve Escambia has succeeded by enlisting leaders from law enforcement, the military, and the faith-based community.

“Our understanding and approach toward attainment has been a journey,” McFarren said. “We’re working in a structured way, first anchored in data and empowered by that cross-sector leadership.”

Jessica Kleinberger represented Central Florida College Access Network (CFCAN) on the panel. She is the manager of Destination: Graduation, a partnership between CFCAN, Heart of Florida United Way, the 211 social services community, and Seminole State College that seeks to helps low-income and veteran students in Central Florida complete their college educations.

“The number one predictor of student success isn’t grades…it’s parental income,” Kleinberger said.

Destination: Graduation, which helps students overcome non-academic barriers such as financial emergencies, has assisted almost 800 students since launching its pilot program in 2015. Kleinberger said the average age of students served is 31, and the majority of them are minorities, female, and balancing multiple responsibilities.

“This is not an 18 year old with parental support and a safety net,” Kleinberger said.

The project has so far produced impressive results.  Of the 798 students they have assisted, 83% have persisted to their second year, higher than the rate for all Seminole State College students (71%).

Michelle Zech, human resources business partner for Lee Health, spoke about teaming up with Southwest Florida-based FutureMakers Coalition to address a need in her industry and in the LCAN’s five-county coverage area.

“We were losing the battle in finding and retaining certified nursing assistants, and technical colleges were struggling to fill those classes,” Zech said.

To address that need, FutureMakers partnered with Lee Health, CareerSource Southwest Florida, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and area technical colleges to provide better coordination, funding, and other resources necessary to bolster the CNA program. To that end, the county hosted an informational event in January 2016.

“Fifty seven individuals showed up, which blew our minds because we were expecting four,” Zech said.

Zech added that the number of open CNA positions at Lee Health fell from 90 to 13 after a year and a half.  In describing the reasons this particular initiative succeeded, Zech also encapsulated the spirit of all statewide efforts to improve postsecondary attainment.

“We have found that collaboration is key,” she said.

The presentations were well-received by the committee members, who commented on the need in Florida to improve student outcomes through the kinds of community partnerships the panelists described.

“I want to congratulate the four of you for an outstanding presentation today to us,” said Rep. Charles Clemons, R-Newberry.  “As a college administrator, I’m always moved and touched by some of the very compelling stories of our nontraditional students who face many, many more obstacles than our traditional students do.  They are working, they have children, they have illnesses, they have $500 cars that is their only form of transportation to their job, which is the key to their education.”

“Government is not meant to be the answer to everybody’s problem,” said Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin. “I love that you’ve taken the reigns to set the standard for your region to bring about transformation.”

“First of all I want to thank you all for your presentations and the overall concept of breaking down silos and integrating partnerships that have measurable outcomes, [which] can be a significant challenge,” said Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee. “I appreciate you all doing that.”

A video recording of the presentation can be viewed on the Florida Channel website, with slides available through the Florida House of Representatives archive.

Pictured (left to right):  Laurie Meggesin, Executive Director, Florida College Access Network; Jennifer McFarren, Community Development Representative, Gulf Power Company and Achieve Escambia partner; Michelle Zech, Human Resources Business Partner, Lee Health and FutureMakers Coalition partner; Jessica Kleinberger, Destination Graduation Manager, Heart of Florida United Way and Central Florida College Access Network partner; Nicole Washington, Higher Education Policy Consultant, Lumina Foundation.

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FCAN and partners to discuss community collaboration, postsecondary attainment before Florida House subcommittee

November 15, 2017

Laurie Meggesin, executive director of Florida College Access Network (FCAN), will appear before the Florida House of Representatives’ Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee Thursday as part of a panel discussion about the many ways communities are collaborating to boost postsecondary attainment.

After presenting alongside local college access networks LEAP and Earn Up in January, FCAN was invited back to provide an update on communities’ efforts to improve postsecondary attainment throughout the state.

The panel will take place Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Mashburn Hall (306 HOB) in the Florida House. Read More

“First Look” FAFSA completion dashboard for the 2017-18 school year is now available

November 9, 2017

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education, information on the number of this school year’s Florida high school seniors who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available!

FCAN is pleased to publish this “First Look” data dashboard showing the number of high school seniors who have completed the FAFSA, by school, since October. In addition to current FAFSA completion data, outcomes for the previous school year are also provided.

New this year, thanks to recent changes made by the U.S. Department of Education, the dashboard includes FAFSA completions for high school seniors up to age 19. Previously, the FAFSA counts only included completers who were 18 years of age or younger. The change has resulted in higher reported FAFSA completions for most schools.

The “First Look” FAFSA dashboard compares completion figures only. FAFSA completion rates will be released once enrollment figures for Florida high schools become available towards the end of the year. Read More

Share the ways you are #Thankful4Pell during NCAN campaign

November 2, 2017

Pell Grants play a crucial role each year in helping millions of low-income students pursue and achieve their postsecondary ambitions.

That’s why the National College Access Network (NCAN) will soon re-launch its annual campaign to help tell the story behind those numbers.

The fourth annual #Thankful4Pell campaign will take place Nov. 13-19, and NCAN is asking its members and partner organizations to show Congress their appreciation for the Pell Grant program.

Research shows that need-based aid, including Pell Grants, increases enrollment and decreases drop-out rates for low-income students. Additionally, more than 60 percent of African-American and 50 percent of Hispanic undergraduates rely on Pell to attend school. Read More

TheDream.US National Scholarship application opens November 1

October 26, 2017

Last year, TheDream.US awarded over $30 million in scholarship funds to more than 1,200 students with undocumented status attending college during the 2017-18 school year.

This year, the organization will begin accepting applications for its National Scholarship on Nov. 1. To qualify, DREAMer students are required to be eligible for the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) or TPS (Temporary Protected Status) program and must be first-time college students.

As previously reported by FCAN, 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.

The scholarship covers each recipient’s tuition and fees up to a maximum of $29,000 for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree — and up to $14,500 for students looking to earn their associate’s degree — at one of TheDream.US’s partner colleges throughout the country. Read More

Future Ready Collier unites county to support students in Hurricane Irma aftermath

October 25, 2017

Champions For Learning has taken program components from its College and Career lab and shared them with CCPS through Future Ready Collier. Photo courtesy of Champions for Learning

It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, but many of the state’s residents are still scrambling to recover from the storm’s devastating aftermath.

“Whether your own house sustained damage or you’re one of the businesses that still doesn’t have power, you see the ripple effects throughout the entire community where you live,” said Lisa Church, vice president of Champions for Learning, an education foundation based in Collier County.

While Irma threw the entire county and surrounding areas into disarray, the focus for Church and colleague Jessica Manchette — Champions for Learning’s senior director of programs — was Collier’s students.

Fortunately, Church and Manchette were uniquely positioned to formulate a rapid plan of action thanks to their work coordinating Future Ready Collier, a local college access network (LCAN) of more than 50 organizations working to boost educational achievement for the county’s students.

“Our work together as an LCAN — with all the relationships and trust that has been built — has positioned us to know how to adapt and leverage resources quickly,” Church said. “The best example of this is Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) and Champions for Learning taking the lead with the support of our other partners.” Read More

Listen to Episodes 1-8 of the College Ready Florida Podcast!

October 23, 2017

Florida College Access Network’s (FCAN) College Ready Florida Podcast debuted in August as a way of spotlighting the many tools and resources available to counselors and other educators interested in participating or learning more about FCAN’s initiatives.

During the first eight episodes, host Amy Bolick — FCAN’s statewide programs coordinator — offered an overview of our College Ready Florida initiatives and covered a different aspect of hosting or organizing an event, with an emphasis on Apply Yourself Florida festivities.

We have collected the first series of episodes here for your convenience, and we thank you for your support! Read More

Bloomingdale High hosts College Application Week

October 19, 2017

Mindy Edgeman was intrigued by the idea of hosting College Application Week festivities at her school.

But Edgeman — the college and career counselor at Bloomingdale High School in Valrico — had to see the event in order to believe in its impact.

“When I was told about it, I had no idea what it was supposed to look like,” said Edgeman, who was working as a counselor at Lennard High School in Ruskin last school year when she first heard about College Application Week. She was able to witness the event first-hand at East Bay High School last fall. “Toby (Loukmas), the counselor at East Bay, did such a great job and really showed me what this could be.”

Edgeman joined Bloomingdale High this school year and set about organizing College Application Week festivities at the school Oct. 17-20. Read More

Ep. 08 — Collecting Data

October 16, 2017

Florida College Access Network (FCAN) generally asks schools and organizations hosting Apply Yourself Florida festivities for three things: ensure events take place during regular school hours, make the experience available to all graduating seniors, and give students the opportunity to apply to the school of their choice.

But there is a fourth and crucial aspect that is necessary to gauge the impact of Apply Yourself Florida and other College Ready Florida activities: collecting data about the events and reporting back to FCAN. In the latest episode of the College Ready Florida Podcast, host Amy Bolick discusses the two pieces of data site coordinators need to relay to FCAN, tips for collecting that information, and more. Read More

Destiny Jedlicka: With foster care in the past, the time for college is now

October 12, 2017

Destiny Jedlicka, with her son Jacob

“The idea of college was always just an idea.”

These days, college is very much a reality of Destiny Jedlicka’s life.

This month, Jedlicka begins her final class at Orlando’s Valencia College in order to complete her associate’s degree in general studies. Earlier this fall, she also started coursework at Rollins College in Winter Park, where she is pursuing a business degree with a minor in occupational studies.

“I’m kind of nervous because it seems like the intensity of the classes is going to be more of a challenge, but I’m also really excited because I feel like I’ve gotten into a routine,” Jedlicka said.

Jedlicka, 29, welcomes the structure of coursework after bouncing back between Florida and her native South Carolina for much of her life.

Growing up in the foster care system like Jedlicka has, family plans and living arrangements can change often, making even the short-term future hard to predict. Planning far ahead in the future for college is a different matter altogether. Read More

Ep. 06 — Securing Donations

October 2, 2017

Most site coordinators will begin hosting Apply Yourself Florida events this month at little or no cost.

But even if organizers want to provide prizes or snacks for students and volunteers during College Application Week and other College Ready Florida events, it’s possible to do so inexpensively by getting donations and leveraging assets in their local communities.

Host Amy Bolick outlines some of the steps site coordinators can take to secure donations during the latest episode of the College Ready Florida Podcast. Read More

The 2017-18 Florida FAFSA Challenge starts next week!

September 28, 2017

Florida College Access Network (FCAN) is pleased to announce the Florida FAFSA Challenge for the 2017-18 school year! The challenge calls on schools, districts, and communities to increase the number of graduating seniors who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Florida FAFSA Challenge aims to build off the success of the last year’s efforts. According to U.S. Department of Education data, almost 10% more Florida seniors completed the FAFSA over the previous year, which was the third highest increase of any state in the nation. FCAN estimates this resulted in at least $37 million more in Pell grants for the graduating class of 2017.

Although last year’s results are encouraging, the state faces some unique challenges this year. Parts of Florida are still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, which resulted in school closures throughout the state in the early part of the fall semester and adversely affected college preparation plans for graduating high school seniors. FCAN plans to track FAFSA completion data early this fall to get a sense of where more help and resources may be needed.

“Hurricane Irma dramatically harmed many communities served by our schools and districts, and students and their families are still in a state of recovery,” said Laurie Meggesin, executive director of FCAN. “The good news is our state is resilient. We are inspired by the many ways schools and communities are working to ensure Florida seniors have what they need to stay on track.”
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FCAN releases new Degree Attainment Profiles for all 67 Florida counties

September 26, 2017

The fastest-growing jobs in Florida require an education beyond high school, which is why Florida College Access Network (FCAN) has released new degree attainment profiles for all 67 counties in the state.

The new resource aims to help each county gain a clearer sense of where they stand on ensuring their residents have the education and training needed to meet tomorrow’s workforce needs. Read More

Ep. 05 — Volunteers

September 25, 2017

Planning and staging our College Ready Florida events would be nearly impossible without the help of dedicated volunteers.

But who exactly are these volunteers that assist students and help measure the success of College Ready Florida events throughout the state? Host Amy Bolick answers that question and offers suggestions on where to find them during the latest episode of the College Ready Florida Podcast. 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

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

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 fafsa.gov 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 abolick@floridacollegeaccess.org.

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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