Every year, Valencia readies thousands of new Knights, armed with associate's degrees and motivated to earn their bachelor's. The benefits for Valencia's are obvious. But what's in it for UCF?

Implemented in 2006, the DirectConnect to UCF program guarantees students admission to UCF once they've earned an associate's degree from one of the university's partner colleges: Valencia College, Seminole State College, Lake Sumter State College and Eastern Florida State College.

UCF has awarded more than 24,000 bachelor's degrees through the DirectConnect to UCF program since its inception in 2006, with the largest group coming from Valencia College, said UCF spokesman Chad Binette.

With tuition currently at $105.07 per credit hour, and an associate's and bachelor's degree requiring 60 and 120 credits respectively, that's more than $150 million the university has gained from these students continuing their educations at UCF.

In addition to the financial benefits to UCF, state colleges also reap the benefits of the partnership, proving higher education to qualified students — one of UCF's main goals, said UCF spokesman Gene Kruckemyer.

"[DirectConnect to UCF] helps our entire community to have an educated workforce and citizenry, and this program gives students and their families a less-expensive pathway to earn a bachelor's degree," Kruckemyer said. "DirectConnect has helped to increase diversity at UCF, which benefits the community, too."

And although UCF's most recent class of graduates included 5,000 DirectConnect students — a 70 percent growth since the program's inception, said UCF Provost Dale Whittaker — it's not all about the numbers.

"We don't really think of it as 'we have enough students,' but we think of it in terms of the individual student and what a college education means to raising the standard of living for each student and his or her family," said Joyce Romano, vice president for student affairs at Valencia College."We believe in the enormous untapped potential of the members of our community and our region."

With UCF in the process of moving some programs to Downtown Orlando, following Arizona State's success, the partnership between UCF and Valencia College will only continue to grow.

Although nothing is set in stone, Valencia has discussed moving its culinary and hospitality programs from the West Campus on Kirkman Road to the new downtown campus, said Carol Traynor, senior public relations manager at Valencia. This would be just one aspect in the partnership, which would bring approximately 10,000 students to the downtown campus.

Also in the works is determining a financial plan for the expansion. But one thing's for sure: UCF won't be fronting the entire bill for the downtown campus, which was previously estimated to cost anywhere between $150 million and $200 million over several years.

"Everyone will have a fiscal piece of the pie that they'll have to pay for," said Angé Peterson, associate vice president of UCF regional campuses.

However, UCF will play the lead role in seeking state funding for the campus, Binette said in an email. Similarly, Valencia played the same role when acquiring state funding for the new Osceola County campus building shared by both institutions.

"Each institution pays the operating costs of its own programs, and the two institutions share the expense of maintaining the building," he said.

It is still not clear if the same will be true for the downtown campus.

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