UCF's transfer student program, DirectConnect, celebrated 10 years in motion Monday evening, where it was also noted that a $60,000 five-year donation was pledged to help fund the financial aid program for its students.
Chief Executive Officer of the UCF Foundation Mike Morsberger announced at the anniversary celebration that Provost Dale Whittaker and his wife Mary have established this scholarship for transfer students coming to UCF.
The DirectConnect program allows students to enroll at any of UCF's six partner colleges for an associate's degree, which then turns into a guaranteed acceptance into UCF. Among those partner colleges are Daytona State College, Valencia College, Eastern Florida State College, Seminole State College and Lake-Sumter State College. One of the latest partner colleges, the College of Central Florida in Ocala, joined the roster earlier this year, according to a press release.
Jim Henningsen, president of the College of Central Florida, said he was honored to be a part of the DirectConnect program. Of the students at his college, he said about 40 percent to 42 percent transfer to UCF through DirectConnect, as a way to access their bachelor's and master's degrees.
More than 41,000 students have entered UCF through the program, and about 71 percent of those students have gone on to graduate within six years, according to the release. DirectConnect students make up two-thirds of UCF's transfer students and one-third of the student body in total.
Danny Kiswani, a summer 2014 graduate of business administration, credits DirectConnect with getting him where he is today.
"It enabled me to change the path of where I was on. I gave me options, that's the main thing. It gave me options," Kiswani said.
In addition, DirectConnect has played a role in diversifying the minority population at UCF.
Before the program, minorities made up about 25 percent of UCF's population, whereas now the number has increased to about 41 percent, the release states.
"UCF stands for opportunity, and we are particularly proud of the impact DirectConnect had on our first-generation and minority students," UCF President John C. Hitt said.
Whittaker also announced an evolution of the program, referred to as DirectConnect 2.0, which would improve the communication between K-12 schools, state colleges and universities to enhance success.
"We will continue to be a national model for access, innovation and impact," Whittaker said.
As for the students and their families, whom Hitt said were the biggest winners, the DirectConnect program provides a way to access higher education, especially for those who would not be able to otherwise.
"The 10-year anniversary just means the first milestone of opportunity for anyone who's willing to work for it. As long as you're willing to put in the time and effort, it gives you the best chance for success," Kiswani said. "If your dream is to be a college graduate and to get a degree in any field that you want, it's just the way to go."
Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com.