When most people think about the students we serve at the Department of Education, they probably envision small children sitting around their teacher for story time, middle school students working in a science lab or even teenagers tossing their caps at graduation. Many Floridians don’t realize that while K-12 education is a critical component of our work, the Florida College System is a vital part of our department and our state’s public education system.
Since Governor Rick Scott proclaimed April as Florida College System Month, I thought I would take this opportunity to tout the great work of the Florida College System, which has become a national model in preparing students for success in careers and in life.
With more than 800,000 students at 28 schools, our colleges provide high-quality, affordable education options that fit the needs and schedules of all Floridians. I’m proud to report that our hard work is paying off – nine out of 10 Florida College System graduates are employed or continuing education after one year of graduation and 93 percent of Florida College System students remain in Florida and contribute to economic growth.
Our schools have been recognized as being among the best in the nation. Just this month, The Aspen Institute announced the 2015 winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Of the 1,000 colleges around the country considered, two Florida colleges – Santa Fe College and Indian River State College – were among the top 10 finalists. Ultimately, Santa Fe College received the prestigious award, which included $800,000. I want to congratulate both of these schools and all of their students and faculty for their hard work.
Of course, we know that in order to benefit from great college programs, students must be able to afford to attend, and I am pleased that Florida has made great strides in this area as well. All of our schools with baccalaureate programs accepted Governor Scott’s challenge to offer $10,000 degree programs.
In his “Keep Florida Working Budget,” Governor Scott takes his commitment to college affordability even further with proposals to expand Bright Futures scholarships to include summer classes, eliminate sales taxes on textbooks, hold the line on tuition and enhance transparency regarding courses. I am grateful for these efforts to help all Florida students reach their academic and career goals with less debt.
In honor of Florida College System Month, we are hosting several events throughout April, and I encourage any interested Floridian to participate. I am especially thrilled that Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera will be the keynote speaker at the Florida College System Student Government Association’s Opening Session on April 8 in Tallahassee.
To learn more about the Florida College System and the events we have planned throughout April, please visit http://www.floridacollegesystem.com.