Valencia’s DirectConnect recognized with Credit When It’s Due grant
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 16:10
Opportunities are continuing to rise for Florida students who begin their higher educations at community colleges. Following the national recognition of Valencia College’s efforts in the DirectConnect to UCF program, the newly announced Credit When It’s Due grant will assist students working to complete their baccalaureate degrees.
Transfer students can vouch for Valencia’s dedication to DirectConnect to UCF, which was honored by Excelencia in Education. The program was applauded in particular for its dedication to the academic success of Latino students.
Joyce Romano, Valencia’s vice president of student affairs, accepted the award, which included a $5,000 grant. Romano has worked closely with the program since its inception in spring 2006.
“We looked at it as building pathways for community college students so they can get to [UCF] and get their baccalaureates,” Romano said. “In that time period, close to 16,000 students have graduated with us and started at the university.”
The DirectConnect program ensures UCF admission to graduates of Valencia, Brevard and Lake-Sumter community colleges and Seminole State College of Florida. Out of the participating schools, Valencia has found the most success: In the 2011-2012 year, 22 percent of all UCF graduates were Valencia transfer students.
The State University System and Florida College System paired up for the $495,000 Credit Where It’s Due grant, the intent of which is to further boost college completion rates by focusing on students who transfer from a state college to a state university before completing their associate degrees.
“Associate degrees have a proven track record in the labor market,” Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna said. “The Credit When It’s Due grant will help more students complete the degree and go on to earn their baccalaureate. This, in turn, makes the students more employable and benefits Florida’s economy.”
In June, Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, commended Florida’s commitment to higher education during a forum for UCF and Valencia students. Jill Biden, a community college teacher for nearly two decades, emphasized the importance and benefits of community colleges.
The forum was moderated by Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College.
“Neither Valencia nor UCF are destinations — we’re just bridges,” he told the audience. “Students want to go somewhere, they have a goal in their minds, and we’re here to help them reach that goal.”
That help is found, Romano said, in DirectConnect.
“We try to make the transition as seamless as possible,” she said. “We help prepare students academically and emotionally, so they understand what’s going to be different at the university.”
These differences can be stressful for transfer students who aren’t sure what to expect at a university as large as UCF. The program advises students on “what to expect as far as class size, expectations for rigor. … We try to make sure everybody is on board with what’s expected,” Romano said.
Junior Taylor Caldwell transferred from Valencia this year, and while she said she didn’t anticipate the daily hunt for decent parking, the transition to UCF has been smooth.
“Both Valencia and UCF did their part to make the adjustment as easy as possible,” she said. “Valencia was awesome at preparing me for my classes. I absolutely loved most of my professors and they really offered a great foundation for things I had to know for my junior-level courses.”
Valencia provides on-campus resources to ensure that information is available as students begin the transfer process. Advisers from DirectConnect, Valencia and UCF hold workshops at Valencia and encourage students to come forward with any questions.
“We have a specific communication plan that pushes information out to students,” Romano said.The intent is to not only inform students, but also to provide guidance, assistance and support.
The Valencia faculty and staff were “absolutely thrilled” when news of the award was announced.
“We had attended the awards ceremony and conference last year, and we were really impressed with Excelencia in Education,” Romano said. “They’re a very important group for Latino higher education, very well-connected with government and business.”
The prize money goes directly toward the program, and it will “partially fund student focus groups … who are getting ready to transfer and those who have already done so,” Romano said. “We are looking to understand more deeply why they transfer when they do and what they experience when they get there.”
This information, she said, will help DirectConnect grow and develop into an even stronger program for future students.
Students can expect support for transfer students to increase as the state programs continue to improve. State University System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan emphasized Florida’s commitment to its students. “Expanding access to higher education has positive ripple effects on every part of our society,” he said.