Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday, April 22, 2021 – LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network (LEAP Tampa Bay), a network of more than 50 community partners committed to changing lives by connecting residents to education and training beyond high school, today announced it is a recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) to support and strengthen postsecondary enrollment for the COVID-impacted graduating classes in the Tampa Bay area.

LEAP Tampa Bay partners will use this grant to create more seamless transitions to postsecondary education for Hillsborough and Pinellas County graduates in the high school classes of 2020 and 2021, with a special focus on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Studies show disadvantaged populations are more likely to experience “summer melt” – planning to attend postsecondary education, but ultimately not doing so – as much as 15 percentage points more likely. With COVID circumstances amplifying this issue, LEAP Tampa Bay partner schools, colleges, and community organizations are doing targeted expansion of postsecondary support offerings, helping students before they enroll and helping them prepare for college. Both in-person and virtual resources will be utilized to provide added support, information, and encouragement to those targeted student populations. Some participation incentives may also be offered.

LEAP Tampa Bay will also expand access to its Complete Tampa Bay coaching model to support recent graduates in applying to schools and for financial aid, as well as providing guidance on programs they may consider. The coach then serves as an advocate for the student after they enroll as well, a kind of champion offering ongoing guidance. 

School partners on this grant include: Hillsborough Community College, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Pinellas County Schools, and St. Petersburg College.  LEAP’s myriad of community partners will also have a role in supporting the students’ success.

“Our partners do a fantastic job supporting students as they begin their education and training after high school, and we’re very gratified NCAN recognized this work by giving us the opportunity to serve more of the students most impacted by this pandemic,” said Chuck Tiernan, director of LEAP Tampa Bay. “By expanding and highlighting the support that is available to students, we believe we can help those most in need start reaching for their next educational goals.”

Research demonstrates students who delay postsecondary enrollment after high school are 64% less likely than their “on-time” peers to complete a bachelor’s degree and 18% less likely to complete any college credential. The Journal of Policy Analysis and Managementnotes college-intending graduates need just two to three more hours of summer support to increase enrollment by 3 percentage points – a figure which rises to 8 to 12 percentage points among low-income students.

LEAP Tampa Bay’s grant is one of just 12 awarded nationwide and the only one in Florida. The NCAN initiative was made possible in partnership with support from The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. It is the second national recognition for the LEAP Tampa Bay network in the past several months, following its designation as one of 26 nationwide “Talent Hubs” by Lumina Foundation in January 2020.

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