LEAP – New Program Launched in Hillsborough County To Focus on Increasing Postsecondary Degree Attainment
Author: Helios Education Foundation
“Education is the single most powerful tool an individual can attain. Education has the power to open the doors of opportunity, break the cycle of poverty and promote a more engaged citizenry,” said Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. That is why Helios Education Foundation views education as an investment and not an expense.
For many students, support systems that provide streamlined progression through the Pre K - postsecondary continuum are critical to helping them attain a college degree and transition into the workforce. Yet, support systems are only one element of success; equally as critical is an engaged and supportive community.
The Florida College Access Network (Florida C.A.N.), with funding support from Helios Education Foundation, has engaged in statewide work that supports local community efforts to improve postsecondary degree completion rates in the state of Florida. Florida C.A.N. at the state level, along with local college access networks within individual communities, will propel Florida’s workforce toward an increased level of postsecondary degree attainment and position the state to be competitive in the evolving global economy.
The creation of LEAP, Hillsborough’s College Access Network, rallies civic and business leaders alongside educators to reach the community goal of increasing the number of working-aged adults who have a postsecondary degree to 60 percent by the year 2025.
LEAP focuses its work within four critical areas:
FUSE is an evolving initiative between the University of South Florida (USF) and Hillsborough Community College (HCC) to provide streamlined access for students seeking a four-year baccalaureate degree. Once accepted to FUSE, students obtain their associate degree at Hillsborough Community College with guaranteed admission to the University of South Florida. While attending classes at HCC, FUSE students are eligible for many USF student benefits, helping them acclimate to both environments.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the strongest predictor of postsecondary program going rates in Florida, according to research by Florida C.A.N. With this in mind, LEAP’s goal is to increase the number of high school seniors completing the FAFSA by 5 percent in every high school in Hillsborough County. LEAP will do this by engaging community volunteers and partners to augment services currently provided by the school district. Additionally, by leveraging school data, LEAP can continually monitor and engage schools and partners to continually increase momentum.
LEAP will identify and engage individuals, organizations and corporations with services that benefit postsecondary degree seeking students. LEAP’s asset mapping efforts will culminate in a central database of community resources and will serve as a repository, assessable to multiple stakeholders.
Effective, timely and engaging communications will position the work of LEAP to the community. Each channel of communication will encourage community awareness and support of LEAP’s goal - culminating in 60 percent of working-aged adults who reside in Hillsborough County attaining a high-quality postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2025.
The model of collective impact, which propels the work of LEAP, engages members from all sectors of the community to contribute time, talent and treasure for the good of the whole. In Hillsborough County, students are lifted by their individual efforts, supported by the community and encouraged to “leap” toward success in college and career.
“As a Foundation focused on creating opportunities for postsecondary education in Arizona and Florida, Helios is proud to partner on this initiative. The work that LEAP is doing will increase postsecondary access and support for students in Hillsborough County, promoting their success and the success of the community,” concluded Paul Luna.