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.”

Districts and schools in Miami-Dade, Orange, Broward, Sarasota, Gulf, and Okaloosa counties won top honors as the highest performers.  Click here for a PDF version of the trophy winners listed below:

“MVP” (Have the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31, 2017)

Large school: Coral Reef Senior High School, Miami, Miami-Dade County
Medium school: TERRA Environmental Research Institute, Davie, Broward County
Small school: Archimedean Upper Conservatory, Miami, Miami-Dade County
Large school district: Sarasota County
Small school district: Gulf County

“Most Improved” (Improved FAFSA completion rate the most, compared to last year through March 31, 2017)

Large school: William R. Boone High School, Orlando, Orange County
Medium school: Mater Academy Charter High School, Hialeah Gardens, Miami-Dade County
Small school: Somerset Arts Conservatory, Pembroke Pines, Broward County
Large school district: Orange County
Small school district: Gulf County

“Biggest Boost” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)

Large school: Riverview High School, Sarasota, Sarasota County
Medium school: TERRA Environmental Research Institute, Davie, Broward County
Small school: School for Advanced Studies – North, Miami, Miami-Dade County
Large school district: Okaloosa County
Small school district: Gulf County

Click here for a full listing of the 54 districts and 390 schools that improved their FAFSA completion rate by 5% or more this spring.

How did your school or district do?

Curious about how your school or district fared in the Florida FAFSA Challenge? You can find out on Florida CAN’s FAFSA Finish Line dashboard, which includes data for over 600 public schools in the state. The dashboard also allows users to view school, district, and state-level FAFSA completion rates using nine different filters and search options.

Chart: FAFSA completion among 12th graders attending Florida public schools

Click image to view data dashboard

The Florida FAFSA Challenge is part of College Ready Florida, a suite of statewide initiatives designed to build a college-going culture and help all students — especially low-income students — continue their educations beyond high school. Florida CAN applauds all schools and districts that committed to helping more graduating high school seniors access financial aid for college and congratulates those that boosted their FAFSA completion rates this year!

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Middleton High in Tampa hosts National College Signing 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

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

Impact of Peer Leadership to be discussed at 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit

April 10, 2017

One of the most valuable and effective assets in the quest to get high school students more engaged in their postsecondary pursuits is sitting right next to them in class or at the cafeteria.

“The most influential person to a 17 year old is another 17 year old,” said Raquel Figueroa, co-program director of College Summit. For more than 20 years, the national nonprofit organization has worked to narrow the college enrollment gap by teaming with high schools throughout the United States to provide courses, curricula and training designed to guide low-income students through postsecondary planning. Read More

Two Florida Colleges among Aspen Prize recipients

March 30, 2017

Broward College and Indian River State College have been honored as Finalists with Distinction for the prestigious 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The Aspen Prize recognizes community colleges for exemplary outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. The $1 million prize fund was established in 2011 and is awarded every two years to the winner and up to four finalists.

Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in South Dakota was named the winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize and received $600,000 in funds. Meanwhile, Broward College and Indian River State College — along with Odessa College and San Jacinto College in Texas, which were cited as “Rising Stars” for their strong record of improvement — each received $100,000 in prize funds.

The five prize recipients were selected from a list of 10 finalists announced in September. Those finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges throughout the U.S. Read More

Florida FAFSA Challenge Leaderboard Update: March 10, 2017

March 22, 2017

There’s only a little more than a week left in the Florida FAFSA Challenge! Which schools will win?  Check out the leaderboard below or view data for all schools by clicking the FAFSA Finish Line dashboard image below.

There’s still time for students to complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for over $150 billion in federal financial aid programs that can be used to attend postsecondary institutions.

The FAFSA is a strong indicator of future college attendance and tells students and their families how much money they can receive to attend college or career schools, making it a critical step in the college-going process. To ensure all students have access to postsecondary opportunities regardless of their income, Florida schools and districts across the state have pledged to set ambitious goals to boost FAFSA completion rates in 2017.

Click image to view data dashboard

Read More

Centennial Middle School students visit USF for College Culture Classroom Project

March 22, 2017

Organizado…microonda…escritorio…compañero de cuarto.

The Spanish words for “organized,” “microwave,” “desk,” and “roommate” were among the most popular recurring terms in a project designed to get a group of middle school students excited about the prospect of attending college.

Almost 70 Spanish I and II students at Pasco County’s Centennial Middle School in Dade City recently took part in a College Culture Classroom Project that required them to create Spanish language ads and brochures describing their ideal college dorm and roommate.

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.  The grant culminated with a March 9 trip to the University of South Florida campus that included a tour of Juniper Poplar Hall, which was the subject of many of the students’ ads. Read More

Legislative Overview: Which proposals stand to affect Florida’s college students?

March 20, 2017

The 2017 Florida legislative session is underway, and higher education is a high priority for policymakers two weeks into the 60-day session. Which bills are poised to impact college readiness, access and completion?

Florida CAN today released an overview of the highest profile proposals that could impact college students.  Top issues include:

  • State financial aid, including Bright Futures
  • Tuition policies
  • Reforms to the Florida College System
  • 2+2 Targeted Pathways
  • Performance funding for public colleges and universities

Click here to read the full report.

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Hey now…You’re a Florida FAFSA All-Star!

March 17, 2017

2017 has already been a banner year for the Florida FAFSA Challenge. The statewide initiative seeks to increase completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by 5% compared to last year, and Florida surpassed that goal more than a month before the campaign’s conclusion on March 31.

To celebrate individual schools meeting that same 5% goal, Florida College Access Network  is holding weekly drawings to award college banner kits to those schools. The kits are generously provided by the College Football Playoff Foundation and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, and they each contain 20 collegiate banners for all of Florida’s universities as well as others in the NCAA.

The schools receiving banner kits as a result of the March 17 drawing are: Read More

Florida FAFSA Challenge Leaderboard Update: March 3, 2017

March 15, 2017

Two weeks left in the Florida FAFSA Challenge! Which schools will win?  Check out the leaderboard below or view data for all schools by clicking the FAFSA Finish Line dashboard image below.

There’s still plenty of time for students to complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for over $150 billion in federal financial aid programs that can be used to attend postsecondary institutions.

The FAFSA is a strong indicator of future college attendance and tells students and their families how much money they can receive to attend college or career schools, making it a critical step in the college-going process. To ensure all students have access to postsecondary opportunities regardless of their income, Florida schools and districts across the state have pledged to set ambitious goals to boost FAFSA completion rates in 2017.

Click image to view data dashboard

Read More

Broward County debuts new local college access network

March 15, 2017

With more than 271,000 students and about 175,000 adult learners in 236 schools, Broward County Public Schools is the second largest school district in Florida (trailing only Miami-Dade County Public Schools) and the sixth largest in the entire nation.

So getting the county’s community and education leaders working toward the same goal of improving postsecondary attainment for all students could seem like a daunting task.

“Being the sixth largest school district in the U.S., it’s going to require a lot of coordination, effort, and time,” said Ralph Aiello, director of school counseling for Broward County Public Schools and BRACE (Broward Advisors for Continuing Education), a program unique to the county that offers students information on scholarships, financial aid, and the college application process.

Fortunately, the county recently took a significant step toward coordinating those efforts.

In January, local leaders hosted the first meeting of Broward Bridge to Life, a local college access network (LCAN) comprised of members from about 60 school district, business, and community-based organizations. The Children’s Services Council of Broward County — which provides early learning and reading skills, after school programs, and other children’s support services as part of its broader “cradle to career” strategy — has assumed a coordination role in partnership with Broward’s school district.

The goal of the new LCAN is to establish a college-going culture and dramatically increase college readiness, access, and completion rates for students within Broward. Read More

What you need to know about the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool outage

March 13, 2017

nullThousands of high school graduates in Florida have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in recent weeks, taking the consequential step to finding what financial aid is available for college.  But a recent development from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will undoubtedly make completing the form more burdensome for students from this point moving forward.

In a March 9 joint-statement from FSA and IRS, it was confirmed that the FAFSA’s IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) was taken down as a precautionary step while officials work to strengthen the security of information provided by the tool.

Why is this important to students?  Here’s what you need to know:

Why is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool important?

The Office of Federal Student Aid has taken several measures in recent years to help eligible students access financial aid by simplifying the FAFSA.  One such step was the launch of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in September 2010, which allowed online filers to transfer tax return information directly to the FAFSA.  This allowed users to save considerable time and cut down on errors from manually inputting tax figures.

How long will the IRS Data Retrieval Tool be down?

Based on the recent FSA-IRS joint-statement, it will be unavailable for “several weeks.”

Announcement on Office Federal Student Aid Twitter account

How does this affect Florida students?

Based on FSA data, conservative estimates would show that over half of high school seniors use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA, potentially impacting tens of thousands of Florida students.  For students attending college in 2017-18, they will now need to manually enter their parents’ 2015 tax information.  For several reasons, a student may not have ready access to these forms, which will extend the time it would otherwise take to complete the FAFSA form.

How can students get their parents’ 2015 tax returns if they don’t have them?

FAFSA applicants can request a copy of their tax return transcripts, which has the income information needed to complete the form, from the IRS here.  Once ordered, a transcript by mail can take five to ten days.  Online transcripts are also available, but require users to verify their identity—which, as our colleague Carrie Warick at the National College Access Network found out recently, is easier said than done.  Click here to read her blog on her unsuccessful attempts to retrieve her transcripts online.

What you can do to help

Spread the word about the outage and make sure your students have the information they need to complete their FAFSA.  Students should not wait until the DRT is functioning again, as its return time is still unknown.  More instructions from NCAN can be found here.

We also encourage you to let officials in D.C. understand the importance of the FAFSA is and how this issue is impacting your efforts to help students access financial aid.  Tweet your messages to @FAFSA (Office of Federal Student Aid) and @IRSnews (Internal Revenue Service) and contact your Congressional representatives to make sure they are aware of the issue affecting your students.

For more on this development, follow the National College Access Network and National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators for additional information and updates.

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Review of research on dual enrollment shows it ‘Works’

March 9, 2017

Over 56,000 Florida students take a dual enrollment course each year, making it the most popular acceleration program chosen by high schoolers in the state. Given that so many students participate dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college credit while still in school, it is important to know if the program works.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, dual enrollment programs have demonstrated positive effects on college access, enrollment, and degree completion among other outcomes for high school students.

Because policymakers and other stakeholders are increasingly being held accountable to improve student outcomes, supporting college access programs based on evidence is more important than ever.  Therefore, an affirmation from the Clearinghouse, which utilizes rigorous standards for reviewing available research, is significant because it provides educators with credible and reliable evidence that can be used to make decisions.

The reports supports Florida College System data that shows students who enter college with dual enrollment finish their degree in considerably less time than students who don’t. Read More

Florida colleges rank high among nation’s top degree-granting institutions

March 8, 2017

Florida colleges occupied four of the top 15 spots in a national ranking of public institutions that granted the most degrees during the 2014-15 school year.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently analyzed U.S. Department of Education data on the number of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees awarded by four-year institutions in three different sectors, including public, private nonprofit and for-profit institutions. Read More

Florida FAFSA Challenge Leaderboard Update: February 24, 2017

March 6, 2017

Less than a month is left in the Florida FAFSA Challenge! Which schools will win?  Check out the leaderboard below or view data for all schools by clicking the FAFSA Finish Line dashboard image below.

There’s still plenty of time for students to complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for over $150 billion in federal financial aid programs that can be used to attend postsecondary institutions.

The FAFSA is a strong indicator of future college attendance and tells students and their families how much money they can receive to attend college or career schools, making it a critical step in the college-going process. To ensure all students have access to postsecondary opportunities regardless of their income, Florida schools and districts across the state have pledged to set ambitious goals to boost FAFSA completion rates in 2017.

Click image to view data dashboard

Read More

Achieve Palm Beach County is seeking a Vice President

March 6, 2017

Achieve Palm Beach County, a collective impact partnership including more than 40 education, government, nonprofit, business, and philanthropic organizations committed to increasing college access and completion, is seeking a Vice President.

The inaugural Vice President’s first responsibility will be to lead the move from concept to execution, molding today’s deliberations into a cohesive, implementable and impactful strategy. The position will also oversee all operational, financial and relationship-management aspects of Achieve Palm Beach County, which had its official launch in December. Read More

House of Representatives’ Fact Sheets outline state’s education policies

March 3, 2017

Looking forward to following the latest education updates when the legislative session begins next week?  Get yourself ready by checking out the House of Representatives Education Fact Sheets!

Created each year by the Education Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, the 300-plus page document outlines the state’s laws on education in narrative form.  This makes a great reference tool for not only state legislators, but the broader education community on matters ranging from pre-K and early learning to postsecondary education. Included in the document are fact sheets on statewide assessments, school grades, how high school students can get college credit in high school, in-state tuition, workforce education, developmental education and much, much more.

Download the Fact Sheets here!

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Florida College Decision Day set for May 1!

March 2, 2017

Decisions, decisions. Among the many choices high school students face on their way to graduation, few are more important than, “What are your college or career plans?”

College Decision Day in Florida is an initiative that seeks to recognize high school seniors for their postsecondary plans while encouraging younger students and their families to prepare early for college. Read More

High Five! Florida achieves statewide goal of boosting FAFSA completion by 5%

February 28, 2017

Florida has risen to the challenge of helping its high school seniors gain access to financial aid – and making higher education more attainable and affordable.

The Florida FAFSA Challenge – an initiative of the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) – strives to boost the proportion of public high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by at least 5% over last school year.

According to Florida CAN’s analysis of the most recent FAFSA data available, Florida has met the goal with more than a month to spare before the campaign ends on March 31.  This is thanks to the progress made by 268 schools and 30 districts that have achieved the goal to date.

“Over the last three years we’ve seen a growing number of schools, districts and communities working together to help their students make college more affordable,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s associate director for research and policy.  “It’s great to see that all their hard work is making a difference for students across the state.”

Florida’s collective efforts to boost FAFSA completion are having an impact: This year’s increase in FAFSA completions will result in an estimated $20 million more in Pell grants compared to last year, according to Florida CAN’s calculations.

Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps students need to take to access college or career school.  Students must complete the form to qualify for federal financial aid programs to pay for their college expenses. Yet according to Florida CAN’s research, each year Florida’s high school graduates leave behind more than $100 million in Pell grants alone because they do not fill out the form. Read More

New FAFSA Finish Line dashboard has been released!

February 17, 2017

Florida CAN has released 2016-17 FAFSA completion rates on its new and improved FAFSA Finish Line data dashboard.

The dashboard includes data for over 600 public schools in Florida and allows users to view school, district and state-level FAFSA completion rates using nine different filters and search options.

New on the dashboard this year is a “School Detail” page, which allows users to view FAFSA completion and submission data for the current and previous school year, in addition to an overview of weekly progress.

Also new on the dashboard is a “Download Data” button, which allows users to easily download a spreadsheet with current and archived FAFSA completion and submission data. Read More

Higher Education Coordinating Council releases 2016 annual report

February 16, 2017

The Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC) has released its annual report for 2016, recommending that state leaders address areas of performance metrics, articulation, incentives for business and education partnerships, and better alignment and prioritization of education funding.

The report provides actionable recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, higher education sectors, state agencies and the Articulation Coordinating Committee. Among the recommendations to the state legislature: Read More

Take Stock in Children is seeking a North Florida Regional Director

February 16, 2017

Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based nonprofit that offers low-income youth scholarships and mentoring resources, is seeking a North Florida Regional Director.

The Regional Director will oversee, support and guide all North Florida TSIC programs (the I-10 corridor including Alachua County). This individual will also help lead TSIC’s advocacy efforts by staying well informed of pertinent public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

The deadline to apply is March 6, 2017. For more information on this position and to apply, click here.

City of Miami and Take Stock in Children launch mentoring partnership

February 10, 2017

Miami officials and community leaders display a proclamation declaring January National Mentoring Month in the city. From left are Joanne Messing, executive director of Take Stock in Children Miami; Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; Jillian Hasner, president and CEO of Take Stock in Children; and Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

The City of Miami has enlisted the help of its employees and residents who are interested in serving as mentors to at-risk students.

The Miami chapter of Take Stock in Children (TSIC) — a nonprofit that offers low-income youth scholarships and mentoring resources — will provide college scholarships for students who take part in the city’s new Graduation Coaches program, an initiative that follows the national Cities of Service Graduation Coaches blueprint.

The initiative was formally introduced last month at Miami City Hall. January is National Mentoring Month.

“People are working together to create a city that is a global city, but a sustainable city,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. “We want to be able to augment what the school district is doing to support our students.” Read More

Achieve Palm Beach County announces official launch

February 10, 2017

A group of community leaders in Palm Beach County first convened in May 2015 to figure out how to improve college access and completion in the area they serve.

More recently, that group spent months developing a strategic plan and leveraging relationships among Palm Beach’s school district, higher education institutions, and community groups.

The result is Achieve Palm Beach County, a local college access network that seeks to collectively develop and ensure an integrated support system from middle school through postsecondary that empowers students for career success.

Achieve Palm Beach County recently had its official launch at a kickoff event attended by almost 150 community leaders representing the county’s philanthropic, business, educational and governmental segments.

“This is a conversation for serious thinkers,” said William Fleming, president of Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Currently, only 42.3 percent of Palm Beach County’s public high school graduates —and only 31 percent of low-income graduates — are predicted to receive a postsecondary credential within six years of graduating high school. Both figures are well below the projected 60 percent postsecondary attainment rate required to meet workforce demands by 2025.

The launch of Achieve Palm Beach County was highlighted by several panel discussions featuring the area’s business, government, fundraising, and education leaders. Read More

Osceola community leaders highlight Got College? Got Career? initiatives

February 8, 2017

Although Osceola County has already made progress in terms of enrolling its own high school graduates in Florida’s public post-secondary institutions, community leaders are even more excited about what the rest of 2017 has in store.

Representatives from Got College? Got Career? — a program that counts the School District of Osceola County, Valencia College, and the Education Foundation of Osceola County as its lead partners — recently offered an update on some current initiatives along with a glimpse into the program’s future.

“We had too many kids in our community where the day before their high school graduation we’d ask them, ‘What are you going to do next?’ and they’d have no clue,” said Kathy Carr, executive director of the Education Foundation. Got College? Got Career? was established in 2013.

Osceola, along with Orange and Seminole counties, is part of the Central Florida College Access Network.

During the presentation — which took place at Osceola Heritage Park and was attended by more than 100 community members — Got College? leaders noted that 45.2 percent of the county’s high school graduates enrolled in public post-secondary institutions within the state, according to the most recent data from 2014.

While that represents an improvement from the county’s 41.3 percent rate during the year Got College? launched — reflecting data from 2011 — the figure is still below the state’s overall 52.3 percent rate, along with that of neighboring counties like Orange (53.4 percent), Indian River (54.3 percent), Brevard (56.2 percent), Okeechobee (56.2 percent), and Seminole (61.6 percent).

Program leaders have identified 23 overall strategies to help boost post-secondary attainment, but Got College? has placed a priority on eight. Read More

FAFSA completion rates in Southwest Florida on the rise

February 6, 2017

A greater number of Southwest Florida high school seniors have successfully completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) compared to last year.

According to data released by Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN), about 27 percent of Southwest Florida seniors — 3,081 out of 11,415 students — completed FAFSA as of Jan. 20. That figure surpasses the April 1 benchmark for last year’s FAFSA completion rate, which was set at 25 percent.

“The fact that Southwest Florida is already at 27 percent is a positive indicator for an increase over last year’s FAFSA completion rates,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s associate director for research and policy, in a statement. “More than half of Southwest Florida high schools show a positive increase in completion rates so far this year over last year, which indicates an increase in FAFSA education and outreach to students and parents throughout the region.”

Florida CAN serves as the data partner for FAFSA first!, a FutureMakers Coalition campaign committed to informing Southwest Florida seniors about the federal student aid application process.

“Thanks to regional collaboration through the FAFSA first! campaign and additional efforts to inform high school students and their parents about filing their FAFSA, as well the increased application timeline, we are in a strong position to achieve our goal of 40 percent FAFSA completion by the end of this school year,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, in a statement. The foundation serves as the backbone organization for FutureMakers. Read More

Florida CAN and partner institutions present before Florida House subcommittee

February 2, 2017

Representatives from the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN), assisted by community partners across the state, joined forces for a presentation before the Florida House of Representatives’ Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee last month.

The goal of the presentation was to highlight the importance of boosting post-secondary attainment within the state.

“A high school diploma by itself is no longer a ticket to the middle class as it was for previous generations,” said Laurie Meggesin, Florida CAN’s executive director. “Increasing postsecondary attainment is absolutely essential for our continued economic growth here in Florida. It is also our best opportunity to build a path to prosperity for all of our students and families.”

Meggesin’s comments were followed by a presentation from Dr. Paul Dosal, vice president for student affairs and student success at the University of South Florida. Dosal’s remarks centered on FUSE, a guaranteed admission program launched in October that allows students at seven regional Florida College System partner institutions to earn an associate’s degree before transferring to USF for a bachelor’s degree.  USF is a partner of LEAP, the Hillsborough College Access Network, which has embraced FUSE as one of its core initiatives.

“What we’re providing for students is a clear destination,” Dosal said. “When they start, they have an end in mind and we’re trying to get them through in a timely way with minimal levels of debt, with the degree of their choice, and fully prepared to enter the marketplace.” Read More

Florida Jobs 2030 report highlights role of educational attainment in state’s future

February 1, 2017

Florida is projected to add 6 million more residents and require 2 million more jobs by 2030. Will our schools, colleges and students be prepared?

To help stimulate strategic thinking around these questions and the state’s future, the Florida Chamber Foundation has released Florida Jobs 2030, a new report aimed at helping educators, non-profits, business, industry and community leaders prepare for projected shifts in Florida’s labor market and the changing landscape of skills required for 21st-century jobs.

Earlier this week, members of the Chamber Foundation discussed the findings of the Florida Jobs 2030 report with state and local education and business leaders.

“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, it’s important to think long-term and when it comes to Florida’s workforce, that means planning for jobs that may not even exist,” said Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation, in a statement. “Florida Jobs 2030 will serve as the road map for businesses and educational institutions to work together to create pathways and partnerships toward economic opportunity.”

Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, agrees that supporting post-secondary attainment is the key to the state’s future prosperity.

“Talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as the economic development tool of choice,” Wilson said.

The report includes interviews from 90 stakeholders — a collection of education, business and community leaders — who examined five of the state’s eight targeted industries: Aerospace and Aviation, Finance and Professional Services, Health Care and Life Sciences, Logistics and Distribution, and Manufacturing.

To meet our state’s future economic and workforce needs, the report offered the following recommendations: Read More

Florida’s high school graduation rate climbs for the 10th year in a row

December 22, 2016

Continuing the decade-long trend, Florida’s graduation rate has risen again — this year by 2.8%.

The state graduation rate is now 80.7% for the 2015-16 cohort, an outcome that Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart attributes to increased accountability and the efforts of Florida students.

“Today’s news is cause for celebration! I am proud of Florida’s students for their outstanding achievement, even as the bar has been steadily raised,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a statement.  “These results are a testament to their hard work and the benefit of Florida’s accountability system, which hinges on transparency and rewards progress every step of the way.”

Read More

Report highlights strategies for increasing college attainment among men of color

December 16, 2016

MDRC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and policy research, has released a research brief examining the higher education landscape for men of color.  The brief entitled Boosting College Success Among Men of Color highlights the factors that influence college persistence, retention, and degree attainment for Native American, African-American, and Latino male students and reviews current programs and practices to better serve this population.

According to the authors, despite having college and career aspirations equal to those of their white counterparts, many boys of color face significant barriers to attaining their academic and professional goals.  A number of explanations for this were outlined in the report, including being more likely to attend underresourced schools, being overrepresented in school discipline and juvenile justice systems, and having a lack of access to college preparatory classes.

In recent years, programs to help men of color succeed in college have grown in number.  The report assessed 82 existing programs across the nation that are working to increase outcomes for these students, three of which are based in Florida, including Broward College’s Brother to Brother (B2B) Advocate Program, Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Minority Male Success Initiative¸ and Indian River State College’s African-American Leadership Institute.

The analysis revealed the five most commonly identified strategies used to help men of color thrive in college:

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Earn Up recently featured in IHEP guidebook on workforce alignment

December 13, 2016

Earn Up, the local college access network serving the six-county region of Northeast Florida, was recently profiled in “Aligning Postsecondary Education and Workforce Strategies to Drive Attainment,” a new guidebook released by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) to support community-based efforts for boosting postsecondary education and workforce alignment.

The guidebook, developed with support from Lumina Foundation, highlights a number of practices and tools that communities across the country have utilized to better prepare students for future jobs.  In addition to Earn Up, other community partnerships profiled in the guidebook include Springfield Project 2025 (Springfield, MO); the Big Goal Collaborative (Northeast Indiana); SA2020 (San Antonio, TX) and Degrees Matter! (Greensboro, NC).

One of the strategies detailed in the guidebook are Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs), which help students translate their existing skills, knowledge and past experiences into college credit.  Earn Up, which serves a region that is home to five military bases, has been using PLAs as a strategy to increase degree completion among its active duty, reserve and civilian men and women.  Postsecondary institutions serving the region, including Jacksonville University and Florida State College at Jacksonville, meet on a regular basis to ensure their programs are tailored to support the needs of the military population through the use of PLAs and other supports.

Postsecondary attainment has become a key issue for cities and workforce development advocates in their work attracting employers who bring high paying jobs.  The contents of the guidebook not only detail best practices, but highlight the value that many of the community partners have experienced as a result of working together to achieve a common goal.

“Earn Up has become a selling point to potential employers,” said Patrick Murphy, Manager of Earn Up.  “It shows how our community is working together across sectors to solve the problem.”

Below are some other examples of ways community partnerships are preparing students for jobs, including:

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Achieve Palm Beach County is seeking an Executive Director!

December 9, 2016

Achieve Palm Beach, the cross-sector cradle-to-career collaborative in Palm Beach County, is seeking an Executive Director to oversee the implementation of its work.

The inaugural Executive Director will be tasked to make Achieve Palm Beach County a reality, overseeing all operational, financial and relationship management aspects of the new entity. Although much work has been done to date, Achieve Palm Beach County is today a vision, and the Executive Director’s first responsibility will be to lead the move from concept to execution, molding today’s deliberations into a cohesive, implementable and impactful strategy.

The deadline to apply is January 16, 2017. To submit an application for this position, please send resume, cover letter, and salary requirements to careers@achievepbc.org.

For more information, click here.

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FutureMakers Coalition establishes Student African American Brotherhood Chapter in partnership with FGCU

December 7, 2016

The FutureMakers Coalition, the local college access network serving the six-county region of Southwest Florida, recently partnered with Florida Gulf Coast University to establish a local Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) chapter.

The SAAB is a national organization founded by Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe in 1990 to address the academic and social challenges facing African-American college students. Students involved in the program will benefit from academic advising and mentorship.

“We are looking at ways to enhance best practices across the region through collective impact efforts to address these challenges and promote equity in post-secondary access and attainment,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization for FutureMakers Coalition, in a press release. “SAAB is a best practice because it focuses on increasing the number of African-American and Latino men who graduate from college by creating a positive peer community based on a spirit of caring.”

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Thousands of seniors complete their college applications through Tampa Bay College Application Week

December 7, 2016

Throughout the fall, thousands of graduating high school seniors at nearly 60 schools across Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties completed college applications as part of Tampa Bay College Application Week

College Application Week is part of College Ready Tampa Bay, a suite of programs sponsored by Extra Yard for Teachers and funded by Helios Education Foundation in partnership with the College Football Playoff Foundation, Tampa Bay Sports Commission and Florida College Access Network.  Launched as a philanthropic initiative to celebrate Tampa Bay’s hosting of the College Football Championship, the goal of College Ready Tampa Bay is to build and strengthen a college-going culture in schools throughout the tri-county region.

In addition to receiving technical support and promotional materials from Florida CAN, participating schools also received college banner kits from the College Football Playoff Foundation and up to $500 through DonorsChoose.org to support their college application week and other activities that build a college-going culture.

College Application Week is part of a statewide effort called Apply Yourself Florida, which is coordinated by Florida CAN. Schools set aside time during the regular school day for seniors to fill out college applications with the help of trained volunteers. Over 145 schools throughout Florida held college application events during the fall semester. Many schools, such as East Bay High School in Gibsonton, FL, took this opportunity to offer seniors all-inclusive college application and financial aid support.

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Helios Education Foundation awards $2 million grant to Florida College Access Network

December 2, 2016

Helios Education Foundation today announced a four-year, $2 million grant to Florida College Access Network.  The grant will provide support for Florida CAN’s work, outlined in our new strategic plan, in the areas of research and knowledge development, communications and public will-building, statewide programmatic initiatives, and supporting the development of local college access networks (LCANS).  LCANs are regional coalitions of leaders, organizations and stakeholders representing K-12, higher education, nonprofits, philanthropy, business, and local government that collectively commit to ensuring that all Floridians have the opportunity to achieve a postsecondary education.  Such coalitions currently represent 23 counties and about half of Florida’s population.

“Helios’ partnership has been instrumental since Florida CAN launched our first strategic plan in 2013, and we are especially grateful for Helios’ ongoing support as we embark on this next phase of our work,” said Laurie Meggesin, Florida CAN’s executive director.  “Like Helios, Florida CAN and our partners are committed to overcoming systemic barriers to equity, access and success for Florida students. Research demonstrates that increasing opportunities to achieve a postsecondary education will help deepen our state’s talent pool, strengthen our economy, and improve the lives of students, families and communities throughout our great state.  We are deeply thankful for Helios’ leadership and commitment to Florida’s college access movement.”

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Florida Department of Ed launches new website to better inform families on school performance, college and career readiness

November 30, 2016

This week, the Florida Department of Education unveiled a new website that will help Florida families make critical education decisions by enabling them to access school and district-level data and will better inform families about the state’s college and career ready standards and the quality of learning taking place in their students’ classrooms.

The website is live at www.FloridaStudentsAchieve.org.

“We take great pride in the fact that Florida leads the nation in school choice and student performance,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a press release. “Through the Florida Students Achieve website, we provide a central location where parents and families can access the information they need to make the best education decisions for their students. It is my hope that all Floridians will take advantage of this tremendous resource.”

One of the website’s primary functions is the school performance search tool, which ultimately enables parents to search by district, zip code, city or other geographic data view and then compare school and district data.

“I am confident that this new tool will revolutionize the way students and parents learn about the schools in their area and throughout the state,” State Board of Education Chair Marva Johnson said. “I commend the department for responding to the needs of Florida’s families with this informative, intuitive and transparent website, and I look forward to its continuous development.”

In addition to performance data, the site provides information relevant to current and future students of all ages and includes easy-to-find information about the Florida Standards, school and district performance results in core subjects, educator effectiveness and graduation and postsecondary statistics.

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Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council Adopts Postsecondary Attainment Goal

November 29, 2016

Forward-looking goal aims to strengthen talent pipeline and meet workforce demand

The Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC) on Monday unanimously voted to adopt a postsecondary attainment goal for the State of Florida.

The HECC, whose members represent leaders of the business community, economic and workforce development agencies and higher education entities in the state, adopted the goal during their November 28th meeting.

“A well-educated population leads to a stronger workforce, leads to a stronger economy,” said State University System of Florida Chancellor Marshall Criser.  “This isn’t the flavor of the year in 2016.  This is actually a commitment to double-down on making sure at the end of the day that we’ve aligned what we’re doing at postsecondary education with our partners to match what our employers and what our economy are going to expect us to do.”

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