Partnering for Postsecondary Success

Author: Marlene Spalten, President and CEO, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

January 12, 2018

When we formed a local college access network in Tampa Bay three years ago, we knew instinctively that our goal of increasing the number of working age adults with college degrees or high quality career credentials to 60 percent by 2025 was essential for the long-term prosperity of our region.

A new Regional Competitiveness Report, produced by the Tampa Bay Partnership with support from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast, re-enforces how crucial that goal is.

The report confirms that we are behind other comparable area in building a talent pool to meet the workforce demands of our region. And it pinpoints a deterrent to expanding the education levels here:  Our low wages and household incomes make it difficult for working families to complete the education they need.

It helps explain why 181,000 people in Hillsborough County alone have some college credits but no degree. Day-to-day challenges – such child care, transportation issues and unexpected expenses – can easily derail education efforts.

We can see that there are specific strategies our community can implement to help mitigate those obstacles, such as employer tuition reimbursement programs, FASFA completion, and creative scholarships, such as the FUSE Scholarship Fund established by Helios Education Foundation and USAmeriBank Foundation to offer up to $5,500 in financial support to local students on a career-oriented graduation pathway at the University of South Florida.

To implement these strategies and meet our college access goals – helping the people of our region to prosper -- we need more than just education and business working together.  We need our government partners at the table, and the philanthropic community plays an important role. As President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, I’m proud to see the formula for this success being built in the Tampa Bay region.

We have built broad partnerships as the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network – one of 12 such networks in Florida – has expanded from the founding 12 partners who represent education, city and county government, business, and philanthropy to 27 partner organizations and entities.

These partners are identifying gaps in our talent development system and building bridges to fill some of those gaps as we work toward a common goal: providing the education and training that leads to success and stability, both for individual and our community.

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