For the first time in Polk County's history, all regionally accredited public and private colleges and universities have come together with the common goal of increasing the number of students who finish their college degrees.
The presidents of Florida Southern College, Keiser University, Polk State College, Southeastern University, Warner University, Webster University and Webber International University signed a letter
in recognition of their support.
The initiative is led by Graduate Polk, a collaboration of businesses and higher education championed by Polk Vision
In addition to the letter, Graduate Polk is offering a phone number -- 863.298.6855 -- for those looking to return to college. Staffed by employees at Polk State College
, the informational line directs callers to the institution that best meets their needs.
"The economic benefit as people advance in their careers and move into jobs where they have more options to earn more directly benefits the community we live in," says Eileen Holden, president of Polk State College. "It also sets the course in motion for future generations that college is attainable and affordable."
Polk State College recently signed the Reverse Transfer Agreement with the University of South Florida, which allows students who completed some academic coursework at both colleges but didn’t finish a degree to apply credits toward an Associate in Arts Degree at Polk State and automatically graduate.
Polk area businesses involved in Graduate Polk include: DSM
, Polk County Appraisers Office, Polk County School District and Publix
The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is part of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Graduate Tampa Bay
initiative, which aims to increase overall degree attainment in the region by focusing on those who have started college but haven’t finished their degree. The MSA is also competing with over 50 other metropolitan areas in the national Talent Dividend Competition, which will award a $1 million prize to the area with the largest increase in college degrees by the end of 2013.
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eileen Holden, Polk State College; Sara Roberts, Polk Vision