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December 30, 2002

Contact: Bill Edmonds
Florida Board of Education
(850) 201-7130

Florida ranks No. 1 in the South in community college student retention and graduation rates

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Education announced today that a new study by the Southern Regional Education Board ranks Florida's community colleges No. 1 in retaining and graduating students.

Combining data from all 28 Florida community colleges, the report indicates that 76 percent of full-time first-time-in-college students are still enrolled or have transferred to other institutions within two years. The survey also found that 30 percent of Florida's community college students have graduated within three years of initial enrollment.

Florida's community colleges performed significantly higher in retaining and graduating students than the other 15 Southern states in the SREB, including Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Community College Chancellor David Armstrong said this latest data is important news for Florida in a time when community colleges are able to provide graduates in areas of critical need. "Florida's community college system is equipped to help universities address the shortages of teachers,nurses, engineers and other professionals," said Armstrong. "The retention and graduation rankings show that Florida's colleges are doing an outstanding job of helping students succeed and reach their educational goals."

Education Secretary Jim Horne said this No. 1 ranking demonstrates that Florida's students are now better prepared for college-level work. "Florida's K-20 system is meeting the needs of Florida's families, and the education reforms of Governor Jeb Bush are showing direct and clear results," Horne said. "More high-school graduates are going on to community college, and more students in community colleges are staying in school and graduating. Florida is leading the South, thanks to the Governor's A+ Plan for Education and to the hard work of everyone in the K-20 system - students, teachers and professors."

On Dec. 10, the Florida Board of Education adopted a plan to increase the number of bachelor's degrees to move Florida closer to the national average. Efforts include expanding joint-use agreements between community colleges and universities and establishing community college bachelors programs in critical disciplines. Over the last three years the number of bachelor's degree programs on community college campuses has tripled, and student enrollment in these programs has doubled.

"The great partnerships between our universities and colleges are giving students excellent opportunities to continue their goal of obtaining a bachelor's degree on the community college campus," said Armstrong.

The Southern Regional Education Board report was based on a U.S. Department of Education Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data Systems survey, and a two-year retention study. The report tracked the progression rates, since 1998, of community college students who are still enrolled and those who graduated and transferred to a university.

Attached are the results of the survey and the retention study of Florida's community college system, and the graduation rates by state.

"This latest achievement indicates that students in Florida are recognizing the value a community college education can provide," said Secretary Horne. "Florida's community colleges are doing a superb job at preparing students for successful careers in the workforce and for successful matriculation into universities."