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Eritha Cainion, senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, join Seminole Provost Jim Olliver in cutting the ribbon at the PSTA event Thursday

Jonathan Jacques, president of Seminole Campus Student Government Association and Eritha Cainion, senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, join Seminole Provost Jim Olliver in cutting the ribbon at the PSTA event Thursday

St. Petersburg College and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority cut the ribbon Thursday on their new agreement to let SPC’s 45,000 students and 3,900 employees ride PSTA buses for free for 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.

“Transportation is very important to our students,” said Karen Kaufman White, provost of St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus, where the celebratory event was held. “For some of our students, this pass will make the difference in coming to college and not coming to college. We have been working for and hoping for easy access to bus service for our students for a very, very long time.”

Previously, SPC students could get monthly bus passes paid for by their campus Student Life and Leadership offices. Now, any student, anytime, anywhere can ride free of charge on any PSTA bus, including regular and express routes, shuttles and trolleys. PSTA operates 203 vehicles on 40 routes with 5,115 bus stops.

“This lifts the burden of not having a vehicle or access off the backs of SPC students,” said Eritha Cainion, senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. “This policy means no more awkward fumbles at the front of the bus trying to scrounge for my money and my wallet. I can just flash that shiny blue (student) ID card and take my seat.”

PSTA officials said the Universal Pass, or UPass, could save SPC students an average of $9,000 a year in car maintenance and ownership costs, a figure reported by Consumer Reports.

“This plan makes so much sense because the PSTA gets riders and we get the transport,” said Jonathan Jacques, president of the Seminole Student Government Association. “Student government presidents were very supportive of this because it addressed concerns students have had for years.”

SPC and PSTA will coordinate promoting the program, which began this first week of classes at SPC. PSTA will capture information on ridership, which set a record in June, as riders boarded PSTA vehicles nearly 1.2 million times. This continues a strong upward ridership trend for PSTA, which had a record year in 2013 with 14,459,180 riders.

“This is a great benefit for both PSTA and St. Pete College,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “One of the major ways we can improve our economy in Pinellas County is by getting more people to get advanced degrees … if you get an advanced degree, you can get a better job which helps all of us.”

“We are an ‘open access’ institution – a four-year college in programs and stature but still a ‘community’ college in our hearts: serving our communities by making sure that students, who would not otherwise have access to a high-quality education, can do so close to home,” said Seminole Provost James Olliver. “This is what good public policy looks like – providing for an easily understood, easily administered program where PSTA gets riders and students know they have a way to get to school every day without having to worry about affording the service.”

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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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Since receiving a $2.2 million Title III grant on Oct. 1, 2013, St. Petersburg College has made significant steps in its first year toward implementation of the five-year grant, The College Experience: A Pathway from Enrollment to Graduation. Aspects of the Title III grant were discussed at discipline meetings following the Fall Faculty event.

The five-year grant, awarded through the Title III Strengthening Institutions Program, is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to improve the systems, services and supports necessary to successfully guide students from enrollment to graduation.

Title III provides funding to enhance many of the initiatives of The College Experience:

  • Student Coaching System
  • My Learning Plan
  • New Student Orientation
  • Student Life Skills (SLS) course enhancements

Additionally, the grant also includes funding for several brand new projects, including:

Title III grant projects are directed by Linda Hogans, Executive Director of Retention Services, and Carrie Rodesiler, Director of Title III. Grant implementation is a college-wide endeavor that includes deans, faculty, provosts, Human Resources, Enrollment Services, Student Support Services, Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Business Services, Online Learning and Services, Marketing and Public Information and student representatives.

This Fall 2014 report includes an update on all Title III project components from the first year of the grant. The second year of the grant begins Oct. 1, 2014.

Title III Document

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Pinellas County citizens will go to the polls Nov. 4 to vote on a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase to improve public transportation facilities in the county. To help them understand the pros and cons of the referendum, named Greenlight Pinellas, the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College will present a free public forum on the issue from 6-8 p.m. Aug 28.

The program, titled “Dealing with Gridlock: Is There a Light Rail in Pinellas County’s Future?” will be held at the Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S. Advance reservations are requested.

The referendum, approved to go on the ballot last fall by the Pinellas County Commission, would fund improvements in bus service provided by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. It would eventually support a 24-mile light-rail line serving high-employment sectors between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Clearwater. While raising the sales tax from 7 to 8 cents per dollar, the referendum would eliminate the current .75-mill property tax dedicated to transportation.

The forum will open with a brief explanation of the proposal, followed by pro and con presentations by advocates for and against passage. Speaking for the amendment will be Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. Speaking against will be Dan Liedtke, a member of the Gulfport City Council.

The final portion of the program will be devoted to answering questions from the audience. Moderating the debate will Dr. James Olliver, provost of the Seminole Campus.

The proposed tax increase, if approved by more than 50 percent of Pinellas voters, would authorize a 1-cent sales tax increase for 30 years, which would raise a projected $130 million per year. The tax hike would be partially offset by eliminating the current .75-mill property tax for transit that brings in $32 million.

For that revenue stream, PSTA promises a 65 percent increase in bus service, a Bus Rapid Transit line or dedicated bus lanes on major corridors and an eventual 24-mile light rail line connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater via the Gateway/Carillon area.

The Tampa Bay Times is the media sponsor.

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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.

 
summer-success14

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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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