Florida Gateway College: Second-Chance Pell Pilot Program
In today’s job market, approximately 65 percent of all new jobs require some form of postsecondary degree, but only 22 percent of individuals in state prisons possess one, a figure lower than that of the general public. This leads to elevated levels of joblessness and homelessness among the formerly incarcerated. Without the opportunity for gainful employment after release, many find it difficult or impossible to succeed in supporting themselves and their families. The Second-Chance Pell Pilot Program is a first-of-its-kind partnership between Florida Gateway College (FGC) and the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) that offers Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals with less than 4 years to serve before release. Specifically, the program allows inmates to pursue postsecondary education so that, upon release, they will be better prepared to enter the workforce and provide for their families and themselves.
The pilot program began with a screening process conducted through the FDOC to identify current inmates most likely to benefit from the program. After reviewing educational records and administering college entrance testing, 65 inmates from across the state of Florida were admitted into the program. These individuals were relocated from their respective facilities to Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) Annex in Lake City, FL. Each student was admitted into one of two-degree program options, namely: 1) Associate of Science in Water Resource Management, or 2) Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts. Program participants are provided housing in a specialized unit at the CCI with a classroom building and dedicated housing facility where they share a true living/learning environment with their peers and fellow students. They have access to a computer lab that offers educational materials and Microsoft Office programs. Full-time and part-time FGC faculty serve as the instructors to the program, providing a range of face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses for the students.
This past semester, 30 inmates were recognized for their high grades and were featured as student scholars on the president’s honor roll. The program has been recognized by the Florida Department of Corrections as a highly innovative program. Florida Gateway College was, and remains, the only college or university in the State of Florida selected to offer Second Chance Pell and is one of only 70 institutions in the country to offer the experimental program.
North Florida Community College: Dual Enrollment Video Conferencing Model
North Florida Community College (NFCC) has leveraged emerging video conferencing technology to significantly improve the educational access for dual enrollment students scattered throughout the rural service areas in the North Florida region. NFCC has a flourishing on-campus, face-to-face dual enrollment program; however, college leadership noted that the enrollments tended to reflect student participants who lived relatively close to the campus or whose schools provided school bus transportation from contiguous counties. The distance to and from campus for most of the college’s six-county, 4,344 square mile service area is prohibitive for many students. As an example, students from Branford High School attending classes on campus at NFCC would travel 55 miles one-way (over 2 hours each day along densely populated country roads). This is not only costly, but also time prohibitive and at least somewhat dangerous.
In response, NFCC’s innovative Dual Enrollment Video Conferencing Model sought to merge instructional and on-site capability into an effective and efficient delivery system. The new conferencing model provides students access to college instructors, in person meetings at the high school, advanced coursework for high school students, state of the art technology at the college hub site, system support at the college and high school sites, video conferencing course facilitator training and protocols, and flexible course offerings and scheduling. As of Fall 2018, 13 dual enrollment video conferencing classes have been offered at six secondary school locations spanning a large area of the North Florida region: Hamilton (28 miles), Lafayette (43 miles), Taylor (33 miles), Aucilla Christian Academy (26 miles), Branford (55 miles), and Suwannee (31 miles). Each campus has at least one room designed for interactive video conferencing. Students at different locations receive simultaneous instruction, interacting with their instructor and their classmates, who could be on the college campus or at other secondary schools, as though all participants were in the same room. The NFCC Model provides flexibility and responsiveness, including college instructor visits to the high school sites one or two times a semester. Instructors schedule time at the high school sites during the regular school day for conferencing to assist dual enrollment students with research papers or other large projects.
The NFCC Model provides savings in both money and time and increases education access. Since the high schools have a different calendar and a unique bell schedule, the meeting times and meeting dates for video-conferenced courses have been carefully coordinated with high school site staff to ensure the full number of course hours are met and to ensure that high school students are able to participate in extracurricular and community activities at their home high schools. The NFCC Model helps to keep students in their high school classroom environment while providing rigorous college course work and interactions with college faculty.
NFCC anticipates longitudinal data will demonstrate that the NFCC Model promotes AA/AS degree attainment during high school, promotes articulation from high school to postsecondary education, and increases college completion rates. Since its Implementation, NFCC’s new delivery model has produced a 71 percent growth in dual enrollment between fall 2017-18 and the pre-implementation year 2013-14 as compared to the state’s overall 30 percent growth rate. The NFCC Model is an innovative practice for increased access and dual enrollment participation for high school students within the continuity and safety of the home high school.
Pensacola State College: Virtual Tutoring Program
Pensacola State College’s award winning Virtual Tutoring Program has served over 1,000 students per year who otherwise might not have had access to traditional tutoring methods. The Virtual Tutoring Program has introduced an innovative, cost-effective practice focused on student achievement. Through virtual tutoring, students have access to individualized tutoring services from any location or device with an internet connection. Most importantly, virtual tutoring services include late-night and weekend sessions for students unable to visit a physical campus during the traditional hours, thus removing barriers that previously prevented many from pursuing individualized tutoring.
The program is staffed by college instructors and peer-tutors who have demonstrated subject mastery. Using a webcam, an electronic tablet, and screen-sharing software, a tutor can answer questions, provide detailed explanations, and illustrate complex concepts using both audio and video capabilities. Through calculator demonstration software, tutors can display advanced scientific and graphing calculations required in many mathematics and science courses. Screen capture software is used to record virtual tutoring sessions, allowing students to view sessions multiple times. Notes created during sessions are converted to pdf documents and shared with the student.
The Virtual Tutoring Program was developed in 2015 to initially increase student retention and success in mathematics courses (STEM courses in biological/physical sciences and writing lab are now offered), which has been identified as a barrier to completion for students in most academic programs at the College. Although the College has a strong Math Lab, offering high-quality, free tutoring to students at physical locations across the service district has aided students who often work full-time and have family obligations in addition to their academic studies. To avoid expensive, vendor-based virtual tutoring products, PSC utilized open source software for virtual communication. Initial equipment start-up costs were minimal, approximately $622 per virtual tutoring station. Costs for staffing were covered through existing academic support lab and adjunct budgets. Adjunct faculty members and peer-tutors provide the tutoring, a distinct advantage because all tutors are familiar with PSC students and courses.
Virtual tutoring services have proven to be both cost-effective and successful. Grade information from the program illustrates that students who utilize virtual tutoring have lower course withdrawal rates and successfully complete coursework at higher rates than students who do not use virtual tutoring. For example, beginning fall semester of 2018, there were over 1,400 total visits and 730 hours utilized. Students who took advantage of these services had nearly a 22 percent greater passing rate in Intermediate Algebra (76.55 percent pass rate of users vs. 55.06 percent pass rate of non-users) than those who did not take advantage of the tutoring services. In all, the program has expanded much needed access for students and received national recognition, including the 2017 Bellwether Award that yearly recognizes innovative programs and best practices among America’s top community colleges.
Polk State College: Education Baccalaureate Program: Establishing Leaders in Teaching Education (ELITE)
Polk County’s need for access to local, affordable Education degrees turned critical in May 2012, when the University of South Florida exited the county. In response, Polk State College launched its Teacher Education baccalaureate program in August 2016 with the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education to meet the need for qualified educators in Polk County. What is truly innovative about Polk State’s Education baccalaureate program is that it was developed in collaboration with Polk County Public Schools –Polk County’s largest employer – to create graduates who are ready to immediately and successfully lead local classrooms. The program has built-in measurements for state-mandated standards and professional competencies for certification endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Reading. The curricula also integrates a variety of objectives for teacher preparation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and strategies appropriate for students with disabilities. Paired with valuable field experiences in Polk County Public Schools, Polk State’s Education baccalaureate students are prepared to fill the increasing demand for qualified educators.
The partnership between Polk State and Polk County Public Schools continues to grow through collaborative and innovative work to address the teacher shortage. This year, they launched the Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education (ELITE) Program to create a seamless pathway from high school to college to employment for aspiring educators. Students may apply for ELITE at three area high schools, where they will complete teacher preparation courses and Polk State Associate in Arts degrees through dual enrollment and early admission at no cost. ELITE students will then transition into Polk State’s Education baccalaureate program, putting them on an affordable, fast track to completing bachelor’s degrees and Florida Teacher Certifications. ELITE focuses on rigorous coursework and multiple field experiences in a variety of elementary classrooms to ensure that the partnership creates a direct pipeline of quality teachers to fill workforce needs locally and beyond. ELITE graduates will be immediately eligible for employment with Polk County Public Schools.
Polk State’s Education baccalaureate program launched in August 2016 with 15 students and now serves 92 who are seeking either a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education or a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. The program will graduate its first class in December 2018 and has already seen great success with students excelling in their courses and field experiences. The program’s first class has maintained an average grade-point average of 3.94 and each student has passed all certification exams for Florida Professional Educator Certificates. The College boasts a 96.93 percent job placement and continuing education rate. With 70 percent of Polk State graduates staying in Polk County after graduation, the Education baccalaureate program is confident that it will see success in placing teachers in Polk County Public Schools classrooms.