LEAP Tampa Bay expansion aims to address college attainment on a regional level
Tampa, Fla. (April 3, 2018) – LEAP is becoming LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network with the addition of Pinellas County to the growing network of partners that are working together to increase college attainment for adults in the region. It was previously known as the LEAP Hillsborough College Access Network.
The LEAP Tampa Bay effort, founded by a collaboration of 12 Hillsborough County organizations, many of whom work across both counties, used community-wide connections to lead the way in adding five core Pinellas County partners. The 17 lead partners represent education, government and philanthropy sectors, and now include Pinellas County government, Pinellas Education Foundation, Pinellas County Schools, St. Petersburg College, and the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg.
LEAP Tampa Bay’s cross-sector network of regional partners works together to promote their community-wide commitment to college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, with the goal of ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.
“Our region’s economy is not exclusive to one county, and we have to address major issues like building a talent pipeline to meet our workforce needs on a regional basis,” said Marlene Spalten, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the network’s backbone partner. “Increasing college attainment is vital to this cause, so growing the college access network to include Pinellas County was a natural evolution for LEAP.”
LEAP leadership uses a collective impact model of collaboration to guide coordinated strategies by partners, all geared at increasing attainment of high-quality college degrees and credentials. LEAP’s overall vision aligns with the state’s “Rise to 55” goal for all of Florida, and the national “GOAL 2025” movement, which seeks to have 60 percent of working-age adults holding such credentials and degrees by 2025.
The LEAP network partners will sign a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) at an announcement on April 5 at 11 a.m., coinciding with the “Rise to 55 by 2025” Attainment Convening at Four Points by Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore, 4400 W. Cypress St., Tampa.
Since launching two years ago, LEAP has made significant strides in breaking down a major barrier to college attainment: financial aid.
Last year, LEAP supported Hillsborough County Public Schools in conquering the Florida FAFSA Challenge, an initiative which strives to boost the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by at least five percent over the last school year. The increase in FAFSA completion meant an estimated $3 million more in Pell grants was available in Hillsborough County compared to the prior year.
The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay also announced last year the commitment of up to $2.5 million by Helios Education Foundation and USAmeriBank Foundation to establish a scholarship fund for the FUSE program, one of LEAP’s four strategic pillars. FUSE provides students a guaranteed pathway to a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida as they earn their associate degrees.
By helping overcome financial hurdles, scholarships keep FUSE students on their pathways, which are designed to accelerate the timeframe for earning a degree, reducing costs for students and getting them in the workforce more quickly. Eligible FUSE students can receive up to $5,500 as they move along their pathway. The first round of FUSE scholarships was awarded to 10 students in January and several dozen more are expected to become eligible this month.
“We are extremely pleased with the strides this collaborative partnership has made over the last two years, and we look forward to expanding our impact with the addition of Pinellas County,” said Spalten.
About LEAP Tampa Bay
LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network is a cross-sector network of 17 partners convened to promote their community-wide commitment to college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Using a collective impact model of collaboration, LEAP leadership will guide coordinated need-based strategies by partners from across business, education, government and non-profits, all geared at increasing attainment of high-quality college degrees and credentials to help build Tampa Bay’s workforce talent base. For more information, visit https://www.leaptampabay.org/.