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Newsmakers of the Year: Florida Trend

Januray 7, 2013

State College Presidents-Florida has more top-performing community colleges than any other state.
by Mark R. Howard, Posted 12/26/2012

Florida's higher education system has been buffeted in recent years by challenges ranging from increasing demands for accountability to funding cutbacks to expanded roles for two-year schools in offering four-year degrees.

Amid the fiscal and political turmoil, community colleges - the frontline institutions vital in creating a skilled workforce for the state - have distinguished themselves. The non-profit Aspen Institute, a respected educational and policy studies institute, placed 14 of Florida's 28 community colleges among the top 10% in the nation. Two - Broward College in Fort Lauderdale and Santa Fe College in Gainesville - are among the top 10 in the country. The institute will pick the top two from among that list.

Florida has the most community colleges among the top 10% of any state. Among other large states, Texas has eight, New York, six, and California, three. In 2011, Aspen recognized Valencia College as the nation's best community college, based on three criteria: Performance, including retention and graduation rates; improvement in specified areas over five years; and equity, the ability to extend good outcomes to minority and disadvantaged students.

Valencia was recognized for continuous improvement and having among the highest degree-award rates in the country. Its graduates get jobs at a higher rate than almost any other school in the nation, even in an Orlando economy with unemployment rates higher than the national average.

Miami Dade College, was among four other finalists that shared the $1-million, biennial prize with Valencia.

"We are more accessible, and many of our programs are configured to prepare students for the workplace in the least amount of time necessary to master the subject matter and complete any internship and/or certification requirements. There is another compelling reason: Affordability." - David Armstrong, president, Broward College, Fort Lauderdale
"It's possible to improve student achievement. We know how to do this."- Sandy Shugart, president, Valencia College, Orlando
"Santa Fe has had a history of success at moving our students from college to jobs. The culture of expecting all students to improve has been there a long time."- Jackson Sasser, president, Santa Fe College, Gainesville
"Access to college must be available to all citizens."- Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College, Miami, TREND's 2010 Floridian of the Year


Florida state colleges among the Aspen Institute's top 10% (in alphabetical order):

  • Brevard Community College, Cocoa
  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale
  • Chipola College, Marianna
  • College of Central Florida, Ocala
  • Indian River State College, Fort Pierce
  • Lake-Sumter Community College, Leesburg
  • Miami Dade College, Miami
  • Northwest Florida State College, Niceville
  • Beach State College, Lake Worth
  • Pasco-Hernando Community College, New Port Richey
  • Santa Fe College, Gainesville
  • South Florida Community College, Avon Park
  • St. Johns River State College, Palatka
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee
  • Valencia College, Orlando *
    • *Because it won the prize in 2011, Valencia is not eligible to apply for the biennial award this year.

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