The Florida C.A.N.! Story
The Florida College Access Network is built on the relationships, experiences, and lessons-learned from the previous network development efforts under ENLACE Florida. The ENLACE Florida initiative was formed in 2006 through a cooperative partnership between the University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University, and Florida International University. Inspired by the success of the ENLACE initiatives in Tampa and Miami funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the mission of the ENLACE Florida program was to build a statewide network of individuals and organizations designed to improve college readiness, access, and success for Hispanic students across the state. ENLACE Florida expanded the scope and mission of the original ENLACE movement from providing direct-services to promoting policy development, institutional re-engineering, and sustainability.
ENLACE Florida’s approach included conducting state-based policy research on a variety of higher education related topics, helping inform the education reform debate by flooding the marketplace with research findings utilizing low-cost communication strategies, facilitating advocacy efforts led by first-generation college students, and supporting the development or enhancement of community-based college access programs designed to serve students from communities surrounding our most struggling schools.
In 2008, as part of an agreement with the Florida Board of Governors, the ENLACE Florida mission expanded beyond Latino students to serving all limited-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students. Over the life of the project, the ENLACE Florida approach in network development was well-received and garnered considerable cooperation from multiple higher education stakeholders who viewed the effort as an honest and legitimate method to empower individuals, organizations, and communities who are willing to work constructively alongside Florida’s schools, colleges, and universities for the common purpose of boosting college completion rates.
ENLACE Florida benefited from additional investments, knowledge, relationships and support from Lumina Foundation for Education bringing national college access initiatives such as College Goal Sunday and KnowHow2GO to the ENLACE portfolio of work. These college access initiatives helped to connect ENLACE Florida to a national community while providing its network partners with actionable, turn-key programmatic tools during a time when support for local network mobilization was in high demand.
ENLACE Florida also benefited from cooperative relationships with multiple four-year institutions beginning with the University of South Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, and the University of Central Florida who all served as founding ENLACE Florida network members and who have helped shape the initial movement. These institutional partnerships served as a launch pad for ENLACE Florida to engage surrounding communities in a dialogue on higher education and has helped to form, inform, and mobilize local networks of advocates.
In October of 2011, the Helios Education Foundation awarded the University of South Florida a planning grant to build on the success of ENLACE Florida and support the development of Florida’s first collaborating network of national, state, and local entities committed to increasing Florida’s degree attainment rate—Florida College Access Network. The project, designed to bring a strategic focus to a growing network, provided the newly established Florida College Access Network (Florida C.A.N.!) with the opportunity to develop its first strategic plan, bring additional partners to the table, and secure a strong foundation for future growth and community impact for students. The project was also financially supported by the Florida Department of Education and the Lumina Foundation for Education. Additional contributing partners included the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Florida Philanthropic Network, NorthStar Bank, State University System of Florida, National College Access Network, and Michigan College Access Network.
Today, Florida C.A.N.! is calling on business, philanthropy, local governments, community organizations, institutions of higher education, PreK-12, media, students and parents to become partners in the network and to help Florida reach a BIG GOAL: to increase the percentage of Florida residents who hold a high-quality degree or credential from 37 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025. We call it “Goal 2025” and together we can reach it.