For decades, the Florida College System has long served communities throughout the state – providing valuable resources to many students who seek higher education to improve upon, or learn new skills. They are one of our state’s most essential workforce drivers and their central mission of open access has created countless opportunities for Floridians. In fact, this mission of open access has resulted in a number one ranking in the nation for associate degree production for the last eight years, and it serves as one of the many reasons we should celebrate and honor Florida College System month this April.
More people are relying on the solid foundation a Florida college education provides, and with a slower than expected economic recovery, the need for more individuals to obtain higher education is paramount. Over the past three years, the Florida College System has grown by more than 104,000 students, even as individual campus operating budgets have declined. By keeping open access at the front of their agenda, these institutions of higher learning have enabled Floridians to access important job training programs and college degrees at a time when they need it the most.
Not only have our colleges made the commitment to accept more students in recent years, they have also accommodated the many needs of our ever-changing population. New program areas have been developed as a result of specific community and industry needs, such as those in health, science, teaching and nursing.
As we have continued to push the envelope, our colleges have sought out innovative ways to diversify course offerings – whether it’s through a virtual means or by utilizing the latest cutting-edge technology for instruction. Many of our colleges have begun offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in specific subject areas that are vital to Florida’s economy.
Our colleges continue to step up during these challenging times, providing opportunity and hope in a time of uneasiness. They are truly marvelous institutions, and I encourage all Floridians to celebrate all that they do for us, not only this month, but every month of the year.