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Leaders Converge to Boost Post-Secondary Success

A survey and roundtable show how to spur policy changes to help students succeed.

Leaders in Florida got together like never before this week to find new ways to tackle a common problem for young people. Higher education leaders, state agency directors, students and legislators convened in Tallahassee Monday for a roundtable discussion about how to help more young people get to college and succeed. Many had never worked together – but they left as partners in pursuing new policies to boost post-secondary success.
Information Update
January 10, 2012

They were participating in the Credentialed by 26 State Policy Roundtable, which ignites action by providing new information and building new partnerships. “This roundtable provided a great opportunity for people who don’t often get together to come up with solutions for some of the persistent problems that young people face as they enter and try to succeed in college or other post-high school training,” said David Wilkins, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, and chairman of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet.

Those solutions can be as simple as adding weekend classes and making an existing food assistance plan available on campus. More on the policy recommendations is below. First, here is what brought all these stakeholders to the roundtable:

Working Across Sectors
Last year, the Forum for Youth Investment chose Florida, Maryland and California for its Ready by 21, Credentialed by 26 project, which helps state and local leaders increase supports for older youth to obtain postsecondary credentials that employers value.

The project draws participation from numerous sectors beyond higher education and promotes efforts that go beyond funding. This is especially important at a time when policymakers around the country are striving to boost higher education access and success as a key to economic vitality, even as state budgets are being squeezed.

“Sufficient funding for higher education is crucial,” said Forum Policy Director Elizabeth Gaines, one of the roundtable facilitators. “But post-secondary success also depends on services and supports from state agencies like health and human services, child welfare, transportation, labor and the K-12 education system.”

That’s because the factors that affect young people’s success extend outside the classroom, such as job demands, child care needs, transportation impediments and the complexity of applying for financial aid. “We’re talking about students who are very fragile, who are perhaps one child care opportunity from dropping out,” State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan, a participant in the roundtable, told West Orlando News Online.

New Ideas
For each of the three states in the project, the Forum conducted a study of state policies that affect college access and success. The first state-focused summary provides 15 recommendations for policy changes in Florida. The recommendations “focus on both regulatory and legislative opportunities, with a heavy emphasis on no-cost/low-cost solutions,” the summary says. 

The recommendations were released at Monday’s four-hour roundtable in the state Capitol, which was sponsored by the Forum, the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and Florida’s Foundation. The event was covered by the state’s public affairs programming channel and also garnered West Orlando News Online.

The 15 recommendations include:

  • Offer more evening, weekend, and summer classes.
  • Expand partnership with Single Stop USA, a nonprofit that provides a clear, accessible, single point of service where community college students can enroll in public benefits programs, receive financial and legal counseling, and receive free tax preparation.
  • Support affordable child care solutions for students with children.
  • Reconfigure the funding formula for state student aid so that it doesn’t penalize low-income students for working.
  • Broaden the eligibility of the state’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to include more college students and allow that program to be used for on-campus meals.

Several of the three dozen participants vowed to work on specific recommendations and to team with other specific participants. The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Council, which is made up of business and education leaders, is making plans to work with the Children and Youth Cabinet. The nonprofit Florida College Access Network will work to advance the Single Stop USA.

Just the act of convening was important, as it allowed the participants to learn more about and connect with each other. Before the meeting, Braulio Colón, executive director of the College Access Network, knew almost nothing about the Children and Youth Cabinet. “I didn’t know that part of their job was to align youth services and resources,” he says. “That was huge.” He plans to connect with the cabinet “and bring them into the loop in terms of what we’re doing.”

For more information about the project, contact Forum Policy Director, Elizabeth Gaines at 202-207-3714,

Ready by 21® is a set of innovative strategies developed by the Forum for Youth Investment that helps communities and states improve the odds that all children and youth will be ready for college, work and life. Go here for more information.

The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet is made up of the heads of all state government agencies with child- and youth-serving programs. They meet regularly to coordinate services, develop a common set of outcomes, and collaboratively decide upon and implement plans to foster the well-being of Florida’s young people.

The nonprofit Florida's Foundation seeks to strengthen Florida by making positive changes in the lives of families through initiatives developed under the leadership of the State of Florida and its citizens.