Archive for the ‘SPC’ Category

Months of efforts to get students enrolled this fall at St. Petersburg College have paid off, as enrollment for the term is up 2.2 percent over Fall 2013. As of Monday, the first day of fall classes, 32,350 students were enrolled in 276,620 semester hours at SPC.

“We’re in good shape and I’m very glad to present these numbers because it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to report enrollment gains,” Patrick Rinard, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services, told SPC’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday. “A number of our sister institutions across the state are reporting enrollment declines” the first day of classes.

At SPC, First-Time-In-College student enrollment was up 8.8 percent, with even stronger gains among minority FTIC students. Enrollment among FTIC African-American students was up 19.7 percent while FTIC Hispanic student enrollment was up 18.3 percent.

Bachelor’s degree programs saw a 6.7 percent increase in students, continuing a trend of several years. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree now make up 12.7 percent of overall enrollment at SPC, up from 9.4 percent in Fall 2009. The top bachelor’s degree programs at SPC by enrollment and student hours are nursing, business administration and education.

“We’re really proud of the data,” said Tonjua Williams, Senior Vice President for Student Services. “This would not have happened without changing the way we did business. We had to undo some of our processes and remove some obstacles to enrolling.”

“As an institution, it’s easy to give yourself kudos, but it’s much harder to look at yourself and say maybe we need to change some processes,” said BOT member Lauralee Westine. “This came from all of you and we are thankful.”

Rather than attend a required orientation and get a student ID, new students at SPC now see an advisor when they register for classes to make sure they are on track. Previously, students were also required to take a career assessment, apply for financial aid, activate their SPC OneCard and get their textbooks before they could register.

Other strategies implemented by college staff to increase enrollment included:

  • Enhanced marketing and publications, particularly on social media
  • Stronger student communications that are more personal and timely
  • A weekly Fall 2014 enrollment webinar among staff so enrollment efforts could be better coordinated and communicated

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St. Petersburg College is partnering with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to provide free bus rides for SPC’s 45,000 students and 3,900 employees over the next year. The agreement, which was effective as classes began this week, will cost the college $75,000 this year, through student activity fees.

“I want to thank the board for looking out for the best interests of the students,” said Seminole Campus Student Government Association President Jonathan Jacques in a video message to SPC’s Board of Trustees Tuesday. “This addresses a concern students have had for years.”

In the past, bus service to the Seminole Campus was intermittent during the day and non-existent on evenings and weekends, making class attendance difficult for many students. Route 58, which serves the campus, now runs more frequently “so students can attend Seminole Campus events and classes at night,” Jacques said.

The Universal Pass, or UPASS, provides unlimited bus service for SPC students, who can ride free any time on all routes, including regular and express routes, shuttles and trolleys by using their student ID. All 3,898 college employees, full and part-time, faculty and staff also can ride any bus service for free by showing their ID.

SPC and PSTA will coordinate program promotion. PSTA will capture information on ridership, which set a record in June, as riders boarded PSTA vehicles nearly 1.2 million times, up 4.4% from June 2013. This continues a strong upward ridership trend for PSTA, which had a record year in 2013 with 14,459,180 riders.

About SPC: St. Petersburg College was Florida’s first two-year college (founded in 1927) as well as the state’s first community college to offer bachelor’s degrees (2002). Today, SPC is one of 28 state colleges and, with 11 learning sites, serves as a model for incorporating bachelor’s degree programs into traditional two-year institutions.

About PSTA: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is the public transit provider for Pinellas County, providing more than 14.4 million rides per year. PSTA operates nearly 40 bus and trolley routes with a fleet of 203 vehicles.

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Student success rates continue to climb at St. Petersburg College, particularly among First-Time-in-College minority students.

Since 2012, SPC has focused on improving student success rates, defined as earning a grade of A, B or C in a course. Rates for FTIC students taking summer classes have jumped 7.6 percent since 2012, a positive sign since, traditionally, these students have struggled academically and dropped their classes more often than other students.

Gains among FTIC African-American males were particularly strong, rising 23.3 percent since Summer 2012. FTIC Hispanic males saw gains of 17.5 percent.

“These results are a testament to all the hard work that has been put into improving ‘The College Experience’ for our students,” said Jesse Coraggio, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Research and Grants. “The term-to-term comparisons continue to show impressive course success gains for all students while at the same time narrowing the ‘achievement gap’.”

SPC launched The College Experience in Fall 2012 to keep the college focused on giving students the support they need to earn the degree or certificate that will change their lives. The College Experience includes five tools: out-of-class support, integrated career and academic advising, an online learning plan that specifies courses, new student orientation and early alerts, which identify struggling students early on so they stay enrolled in the courses.

Overall success rates among all students also improved, climbing 2.3 percent to 80.8 percent.

Registration at SPC continues for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 18.


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St. Petersburg College is partnering with Complete Florida, an online initiative designed to help adults, veterans and active duty military personnel finish their college degree. In Florida, about 2.2 million adults, or 20 percent of adults over 25, have earned some college credit but have not completed their degree.

9GODhDmj_400x400With the majority of future jobs in Florida expected to require training beyond high school, Complete Florida is focused on increasing the number of Floridians with a postsecondary credential. It is widely estimated that by 2018, nearly 60 percent of jobs in Florida will require postsecondary credentials beyond a high school diploma. Currently, 35 percent of the state’s adults have an associate degree or higher.

Created and funded by the Florida Legislature, the initiative is a joint effort between the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System to address the critical education gap while giving priority to veterans and active duty military.

“Complete Florida’s goal is to get adults back to school and help them meet their educational and professional goals through personalized coaching, concierge-based wraparound support systems and accelerated program completion,” said Pam Northrup, Executive Director of UWF’s Innovation Institute. “Ultimately, we want to connect graduates with job opportunities in Florida.”

Led by the University of West Florida’s Innovation Institute, Complete Florida offers 50 fully online, flexible and accelerated degree programs and certificates. All programs align with high-wage, high-skill workforce needs in the areas of information technology, health care, business, education and general studies. Currently, 11 state and private institutions in Florida are partnering in Complete Florida.

As part of Complete Florida, SPC received a $100,000 grant to help devise ways to incorporate prior-learning assessments, competency-based learning and advising into the delivery and support service model for students to succeed.

Coaching and extensive support systems are the backbones of the Complete Florida program. Personal coaches act as student advocates working to integrate students’ existing college credit and prior learning experiences into their program of study. Complete Florida’s personal learning coaches help students fit courses into busy schedules and align skills and interests to programs and jobs, putting them on a personalized path to a college degree.

For now, SPC offers the following programs through Complete Florida and plans to add more:

Scholarships and financial aid opportunities are available for qualified students. For additional information on Complete Florida, visit http://www.completeflorida.org.

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From left: Melissa Joy Petrescue, Melissa Dabydeen, Madeline Stubbs and Sydney Mundorff speak as part of a panel during a session that was added to the schedule by NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt.

From left: Melissa Joy Petrescue, Melissa Dabydeen, Madeline Stubbs and Sydney Mundorff became the experts on a panel during a recent conference on peer advising.

Four St. Petersburg College students became the experts on a panel at the National Academic Advising Association Summer Institute in St. Petersburg on July 29.

The students, who serve as peer advisors at SPC’s Seminole Campus, attended the conference to learn how to bolster the college’s Peer Advising Program, which launched in October 2013.

Initially attending the conference to learn about different advising methods, the students soon found the tables turned when they were suddenly asked to answer questions regarding their experiences as peer advisors.

“All eyes were on our students,” said Malena Buck, Student Life and Leadership Coordinator who started the SPC Peer Advising Program at the Seminole Campus. “The students were constantly challenged with questions regarding their own student experiences and with their experiences as peer advisors.”

The students were asked to explain SPC’s program in detail and answer questions specific to their roles as students and peer advisors.

“This was a great opportunity to hear these experiences directly from students,” said Charlie Nutt, Executive Director of NACADA. He said participants raved about the quality of SPC’s peer advisors.

For the students, the experience of not only attending but actively participating in the summer institute was exciting and enlightening.

“This conference boosted my confidence as a peer advisor,” said Melissa Dabydeen, an Associate in Arts student at the Seminole Campus. “The detailed information that I learned in the sessions was extremely helpful and the opportunity to sit on a panel was a wonderful experience.”

Madeline Stubbs, newest peer to the Seminole team, said she was excited for the privilege to share the college’s Peer Advising Program with other colleges across the nation.

“This conference has provided me with a much better understanding of the purpose behind the peer advising program,” said Melissa Joy Petrescue. “I have a greater sense of purpose as I see how my role fits in with the big picture.”

The peer advisors are working with Buck and the NACADA faculty, to create a mission statement and action plan to help raise awareness of the program throughout student services.

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Two student civic engagement projects are rolling out this fall as the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College puts strategies of the Florida College System’s Civics Literacy Initiative into action.

The Florida College System Civic Literacy Initiative launched as a workshop hosted by the Institute in October 2013. The initiative aims to make civic engagement a part of the college experience of every student in the FCS system.

The first project is TurboVote, an electronic platform that assists students in registering to vote by becoming part of their fall college registration process. The second, called The Great Debate, is a revival of inter-campus debate competition from past years to recruit students for the first round of debates in mid-October.


SPC announced in June that it was joining the TurboVote partnership, along with the rest of the colleges in the Florida College System. TurboVote is a non-partisan electronic system that makes it easy for students to register to vote for the first time.

Following up on the June announcement, Joseph Smiley, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently appointed two SPC faculty members as implementers of the TurboVote project:

  • Tara Newsome, Associate Professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Earl Fratus, Instructor, Social Sciences

The two are working to integrate TurboVote into SPC’s registration and orientation process. They also are working with the Student Life and Leadership Coordinators around the college to provide TurboVote voter registration tables at fall Welcome Back events on all campuses.

Smiley said an announcement will be added to the ANGEL home page, in the Public Announcement section. Arrangements also are being made for a link in the new learning platform, Desire2Learn.

Thanks to a 50 percent discount offered to the FCS by TurboVote, the Institute was able to fund the upfront costs for all member colleges of the system to ensure maximum participation. To date, only two of the 28 colleges have not joined.

Since launching its college partnerships program at Harvard University and Miami Dade College in January 2012, TurboVote’s partnerships program has grown to include more than 125 institutions nationwide, including 35 participating institutions in Florida.

The Great Debate

The second project, The Great Debate, is a competitive academic event that invites students to engage in debate of topical issues outside the classroom.

ISPS sees it as an ideal vehicle to advance one of the goals of the Civics Literacy Initiative. Six campuses have committed to the competition:

  • Seminole
  • Clearwater
  • St. Petersburg/Gibbs
  • Tarpon Springs
  • Downtown/Midtown
  • Health Education Center

Students who volunteer for the competition are randomly paired to debate the pro or con viewpoint of an assigned issue. The best debater from each campus will advance to the finals and compete for cash prizes. Implementers on each campus will recruit instructors to make the debate competition a component of their classes, especially in Speech, Communications, Ethics and Social Sciences.

Preliminary competition will be held during between-class lunch breaks the week of Oct. 13-17. Finals will be held Nov. 13 in the Digitorium at the Seminole Campus.

The Great Debate fulfills three of the SPC’s strategic priorities by promoting critical thinking, effective communication, independent research and teamwork while also encouraging civic engagement:

  • Student Success Initiative
  • Out-of-Class Learning and
  • The College Experience Initiative

The 2014 election year is an ideal time to re-launch this initiative. There is no shortage of controversial issues to debate, some of which will be on the November ballot and some that are in play on the national stage. This project will broaden public understanding of those issues.

“This is just the kind of project we envisioned to fulfill goals of the Civics Literacy Initiative,” said Jim Olliver, Provost, Seminole Campus. “It combines in- and out-of-class experiences that get students involved in studying issues important to their community and state while expanding their academic knowledge and career-building skills. It’s a win-win-win for them, for SPC, and for civics engagement.”

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Jonathan Jacques, president of the Seminole Campus SGA presents his campus' student budget July 11.

Seminole Campus Student Government Association President Jonathan Jacques presents his campus’ student budget on July 11.

Providing free Microsoft Office programs and counseling services to St. Petersburg College students has proven to be very popular. For the third straight year, Student Government Association leaders from SPC campuses will support both items in their 2014-15 budgets.

Each year, SGA groups receive 25 percent of student activities funds to develop spending plans that support enrichment activities for campuses and students. They present their budgets to SPC officials, who this year included Tonjua Williams, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, and Jamelle Conner, Associate Vice President for Business Services.

“I can’t wait to see what you do this year,” said Williams. “This is what leadership is about – when you realize it’s not about you, but your students and those you serve.”

The SGA budget is split among campuses based on student semester hours at each location. Student groups and clubs can request funds for their events and groups through their SGA by explaining their budget requests in an online form or making their cases to their SGA in person.

“We require clubs to get multiple quotes for events and appear before the SGA” to be considered for funds, said Dee Evans, treasurer of the SGA at the Health Education Center, which didn’t have a strong student government group until two years ago. The SGA office at HEC is now located in the cafeteria and officers routinely scout the campus for new members.

Williams took note of their progress.

“I want to applaud how far you’ve come in two years,” she said. “It’s hard to get an SGA up and running, and it’s pretty brilliant having your office near the food.”

Direct from Athens, Greece

This year, Clearwater SGA President Euripides Stephanou presented his campus’ budget from Athens, Greece, via Skype.

“I’m honored that I can represent my campus from 6,000 miles away,” said Stephanou, who believes community events are one of the best recruiting tools the college has. “Our community events engage individuals who may want to enter college life and further their education.”

Supporting the College Experience

Many SGA groups developed their budgets in line with the college’s values as detailed in The College Experience. For example, the Seminole Campus allotted $15,000 for peer advising last year. It was so successful the college picked up the tab this year. Tarpon Springs is adopting the initiative this year with their own allocation of $15,000.

“It really bridges the gap between professional career advising and academic advising,” said Melissa Dabydeen, vice president of Seminole’s SGA. “The best feeling in the world is when they give you back the (electronic paging) buzzer and seeing them satisfied and their questions answered.”

Williams became a true fan of peer advising after sitting in on some sessions with students.

“It’s less intimidating for students, who don’t feel judged and were able to be candid. Any campus that is not doing this is missing out,” she said.

Campus by campus

This year, the $1.3 million will be divided as follows:

Other hot topics

Another topic on the minds of students was transportation. In the past, the Seminole Campus SGA provided passes for students to ride Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses. Currently the college is in talks with PSTA to provide free bus rides for all students to and from the college’s nine locations beginning in the fall.

Creating opportunities for fellowship among students, like intramural sports and campus events, remains a priority for SGA groups. Providing counseling and referrals through BayCare Student Assistance Program is also crucial.

“Most students go to BayCare because of stress so activities like intramurals are very important to relieve some of that,” Williams said. “I’m really addressing stress this year because our students really struggle with it. It affects everything they do, how they act, eat, perform in school, everything.”

The BayCare program offers expanded support services and counseling for students in addition to training for faculty and staff in dealing with student concerns and assistance after incidents that would impact students collegewide. Students get three counseling sessions a year through the program.

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