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UCF, the University of South Florida and Florida International University lead the charge in putting students ahead of rivalries as they join forces to help increase graduation rates and find their students careers in Florida.

While consortiums exist elsewhere, such as those that make up the University Innovation Alliance, these three colleges have set themselves apart with like-minded goals, allowing them to lobby together and have a far greater impact.

Douglas Robertson, the dean of Undergraduate Education at FIU, said the Board of Governors lobbied for $12 million on behalf of the consortium.

Although the money was denied, it served as a huge breakthrough for the consortium.

"People are always watching and are intrigued. Ears always seem to perk up when [the consortium] is brought up," Robertson said.

This joint effort not only allows the colleges to lobby together, but to also work together in particular areas to help their students.

On each of the three colleges, four committees will be set up: Predictive Analytics, High-Tech Pathways, Targeted Support and Career Readiness.

As this alliance expands, the colleges have more impact and should see more success. As they're all in the beginning stages, they have already seen a positive impact.

Michael Preston, UCF's director of the Office of Student Involvement and soon-to-be executive director of the consortium, said the programs are sharing data and are being implemented quickly.

He's hopeful that in the first year there will be joint cooperation among the different committees across the colleges.

To see its full impact, Preston said it will take time.

Paul Dosal, vice provost for Student Success at USF, said he has a clear vision for this consortium.

"I want to transform student success," Dosal said. "With UCF and FIU's help, I can do a better job with my own students and theirs. ... With combining efforts and expertise, we can move the needle for graduation success, salaries and employment rates."

As outlined in its brochure, the consortium's goals by 2018 are: to increase the graduation rate for minority students to 67 percent, add 3,600 baccalaureate degrees to increase the number by 12 percent, increase the number of graduates employed or continuing their education to 79 percent and increase the salary of graduates by 10 percent for an average of $39,072.

Robertson said he understands that the growth of the consortium will require funding. The colleges will need to hire staff to help fulfill the vision they seek.

As of today, Helios Education Foundation has committed $500,000 for five years to support programs of the consortium and the infrastructure needed to make things happen. UCF, USF and FIU have also committed $75,000 annually for five years, totaling $1,125,000. The State Targeted Educational Attainment granted a total of $8.5 million for specific projects.

"This is a very new and unique concept. I'm excited to set a standard for states to follow," Preston said. "Going from competitors to friends, all to help the economy and open opportunities for students."

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Johnathan Kuntz is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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