Boosting Postsecondary Attainment Key to Florida’s Future Prosperity
Author: Laurie Meggesin, Executive Director, Florida College Access Network
Recently, Florida’s Higher Education Coordinating Council set a new “stretch” goal for our state: for at least 55 percent of working-age Floridians to hold high-quality postsecondary degrees or credentials by the year 2025.
Florida College Access Network applauds this goal and is committed to helping our state achieve it.
Indeed, Florida’s future depends on it. As we progress through the 21st century, our rapidly changing economy will need an increasingly skilled workforce. Labor economists project that at least 65% of Florida jobs will require some form of postsecondary credential by 2025, such as a two- or four-year degree or a vocational certificate.
Yet currently, just 47% of working-age Floridians hold such a credential. We have a skills gap in Florida, and it will only grow larger in the coming years unless we make a concerted effort to close it. A high school diploma alone is no longer the ticket to the middle class that it once was for so many Floridians. The skills gap is not only costly for our state, but for our students as well. Among recent Florida high school graduates without plans to continue their educations, only half had a job the following fall, and those who were working earned, on average, less than $8 dollars an hour.
To achieve Florida’s postsecondary attainment goal, Florida needs to improve opportunities for all students. To accomplish this, we must scale programs and interventions that show the greatest promise to close opportunity gaps, especially for low-income students, Floridians living in rural communities, and other students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
This will require that our state’s education policies adapt to support student success from cradle to career. We can build a college-going culture starting in the early grades, expose students to career pathways in middle school and guide them through the college-going process in high school. Strengthening access to financial aid and redesigning scholarship and aid programs can make college more affordable. Enhancing college advising and other supports can help postsecondary students stay on track and complete their credential. Expanding opportunities for work experience through internships and other programs can help students land good jobs and embark on rewarding careers.
Throughout Florida, local college access networks are working across education systems and sectors to ensure that all students, especially those traditionally underrepresented in higher education, can access and achieve a high-quality college degree or workforce credential. We believe that through community partnerships and aligned state policies, we can achieve and surpass the Higher Education Coordinating Council’s postsecondary attainment goal and with it, create a vibrant future for all Floridians.
Our students deserve nothing less.