Florida Legislature, Higher Education Representatives Discuss Ensuring Educational Access for Every Student in Pinellas County

press conference group photo to include SPC and USFSP and state officials

(May 17, 2018) – USF St. Petersburg (USFSP) held a press conference on May 23, 2018 to detail new initiatives, scholarship opportunities and expansion of existing programs to increase higher education access for all students in Pinellas County. Representatives from the Florida Legislature, USFSP and St. Petersburg College (SPC) highlighted how they are creating greater pathways for students from middle school through graduate school to attain their educational goals. The event took place at 1:30 p.m. at the USFSP Waterfront.

Speakers included:
• Senator Jeff Brandes, Florida Senate
• Representative Chris Sprowls, Florida House of Representatives
• Stephanie Goforth, USF St. Petersburg Campus Board Chair and USF Trustee
• Martin Tadlock, USF St. Petersburg Interim Regional Chancellor
• Tonjua Williams, St. Petersburg College President

“A major priority of the Pinellas County delegation this legislative session was to secure critical funding that will expand educational access and begin to provide every student in our county the resources to earn a college degree,” said Representative Sprowls.

During the last legislative session, Senator Brandes, Representative Sprowls and the Pinellas County delegation were instrumental in securing new funds for both USFSP and SPC. Some of these funds will be dedicated toward providing scholarships and programs that create a more seamless transition for SPC students and recent graduates who attained their associate’s degree to attend USFSP and earn a bachelor’s degree.

A new Blue Gold Scholarship will be offered by both USFSP and SPC that officials hope will create a greater pipeline between the two institutions, increasing the overall number of students who begin at SPC and go onto USFSP. Nearly 3,800 USFSP alumni originally began at SPC. About 25 percent of current USFSP undergraduate students are St. Petersburg College transfers, according to data from the 2017-18 academic year.

“SPC and USFSP are working collaboratively to ensure middle and high school students in public, private, charter and home schools know there are pathways to higher education in Pinellas County,” said Williams. “Thanks to the legislature, there are now increased resources to support these pathways so students can secure an undergraduate degree from USF St. Petersburg.”

Another scholarship opportunity will increase the number of students eligible for FUSE. FUSE is a partnership between SPC and the USF System that allows students to start earning an associate’s degree from SPC while receiving many of the perks of being a USF student, from access to campus events to specialized advising. When it’s time for a bachelor’s degree, FUSE guarantees students who earn an associate’s degree in three years with a minimum grade point average of 2.0 will be admitted to either USFSP or USF Tampa, based on which academic path students pursue. The FUSE Program is designed to promote timely bachelor’s degree completion for students who have earned an associate’s degree from a participating regional Florida College System institution.

“USF St. Petersburg and St. Pete College have a longstanding and rewarding partnership. We continue to enhance that partnership in new and exciting ways. These new scholarship opportunities will help ensure pathways are available for every student in our community who wants to earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree,” said Tadlock.

Other potential initiatives that may come out of the increased legislative funding include increasing the number of higher education advisors in Pinellas County high schools, establishing a winter transition program for SPC students coming to USFSP and establishing education fairs for private schools and home school students.

“As both a graduate of St. Petersburg College and USF St. Petersburg, I know firsthand the impact these institutions have on changing students’ lives, and I am excited to see the ripple effect these new scholarships and programs will have for our community.” said Goforth.