Polk State College Gets Creative To Up Graduation Rate

Polk State College in Winter Haven is increasing the number of degrees awarded, as motivated by the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is one of three in Tampa Bay competing with over 50 other metropolitan areas in the national Talent Dividend Competition. A $1 million prize will be awarded to the area that sees the largest increase in college degrees by the year 2013.

Led by the Tampa Bay Partnership, Graduate Tampa Bay focuses on people who have started college but haven't finished their degree. 

"Getting their foot back in the door is a scary thing,'' says Naomi Boyer, associate VP for strategic initiatives at Polk State College. The College is making it less scary with some innovative ways to help former students finish school.

For example, they are removing barriers by graduating students who received enough credits but have not completed certain administrative steps required to graduate. They are also creating a "fast track'' online option for general education courses to help those who have completed some courses.

Another possibility being considered is reverse degree completion. Some students take courses at the College and then transfer to a four-year institution for the additional classes. These courses can be reversed back to Polk State College's system to show that the degrees were completed, providing students with the credential they earned.

The College is also reaching out to local businesses to provide services tailored to their employees, such as on-site advising. College reps  recently participated in a community event hosted by Polk Vision, where this idea, among other things, was explored with local businesses and other universities.

"We're dialoging with the businesses to help them conceptualize what's even possible within their scope of reference,'' says Boyer. The group plans to continue meeting on a monthly basis to explore other creative ways to increase college attainment.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Naomi Boyer, Polk State College

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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