Gov. Rick Scott has talked a lot about the need to improve education and increase the number of college grads with STEM degrees. From a business perspective, he thinks that’s how Florida will be able to compete globally and lure companies that will bring high paying jobs to the state.
The Florida College Access Network (FCAN) is out with a report that says one way to success may be as simple as getting adults back in school. About 22 percent of working Floridians between the ages of 25 and 64 went to college, but they didn’t stay long enough to get a degree.
Why do so many post-secondary students not finish? The report cites a study by Public Agenda that found the most prevalent reasons:
- Overall stress
- Overwhelming financial burdens
- Lack of guidance and knowledge about college-related decisions
- Unsure about the benefits of completing college
A separate study blames a combination of less financial aid, higher tuition, and an increase in the cost of living. While college in Florida is still a good deal, the FCAN report calculated a 69 percent increase in tuition and fees at the state’s 2-year institutions from academic years 2004-05 to 2011-12. The increase was 84 percent at 4-year public universities.
How might the state lure former students back to college? The FCAN report says some of these barriers need to be overcome:
- Complexity of the enrollment process
- Class scheduling (need for evening and online courses)
- Cost of college
- Transcript issues
- Anxiety and fear
- Unavailability of prior learning assessments
- Juggling full-time work with school
- Need for affordable child care and tending to family responsibilities
The FCAN report finds that Florida is among the states turning to a “concierge” model to help non-traditional students return to college. This model creates a pathway designed specifically for students based on the biggest obstacles they face as they return to college. Finish Up, Florida! and the Adult Completion Pilot Project are two concierge-type initiatives mentioned in the report.
The Florida College Access Network recommends more online degree programs and involvement from the business community as ways to re-engage those who started college and didn’t finish. In Florida, that amounts to 2.1-million working adults.