Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read February 2021 — Broward College is a public college in Fort Lauderdale that was established in 1959 as part of a move to broaden Florida’s two-year colleges. President Gregory Adam Haile spoke with Invest: about the college’s role in embracing challenges such as racial inequality and how its rapid credentialing program is helping retrain the workforce in new areas.
What were some major highlights for Broward College in the last year?
We continued to focus on opportunities that increase affordability and equity. In June, we were recognized as a Top 10 finalist for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which is the preeminent prize for more than 1,000 institutions in our category. We define excellence by how we serve our community. We’ve embraced recent challenges, including those related to racial inequities. The lowest income zip codes have seen their problems exacerbated by the pandemic. Through funding from the state, we’ve provided rapid credentials to help some of the most affected in our community. We also partnered with organizations like Florida Power and Light, which provided us with over 400 free laptops for students in need who are registered in rapid credentials.
Last fall, we also implemented a food distribution program in partnership with LifeNet4Families to provide more than 3,000 bags of food to our students and Florida Blue gave us a grant of almost $400,000 to expand our food distribution. Some of our students are experiencing homelessness and 28% have felt some form of food insecurity. These are real challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Students from lower-income households may also have lost their jobs and need to make a daily decision about whether they can continue with schooling or not.
After nearly two years of development, we implemented a priority-based budget to ensure we prioritize investments in the things that impact our students most and have the courage to disinvest in the activities that do not. One of those initiatives included increasing our adviser ratio from a 700:1 student to adviser ratio to a 350:1 ratio. This significant improvement allows our advisers to better help students navigate life challenges, including juggling coursework during the semester while working their schedule around a job or family responsibilities.
How is your rapid credentialing initiative helping during the pandemic?
As part of our efforts to invest in those who need us most and to get those who have been dislocated from employment back on their feet, we’re emphasizing our rapid credentialing program. For spring, we have 648 students enrolled in technical certificates and continuing education courses through Rapid Credentials. During the last year, people have been losing their jobs and they need to quickly retrain in a new area. We can provide credentials in as little as two weeks and up to 18 months. Employers are also beginning to recognize that a degree is not necessarily needed for certain jobs. Sometimes it’s a matter of teaching certain skills. But at Broward College we also ensure these programs ladder into degree programs. Rapid credentialing is the short-term solution but the data continues to tell us that the higher the academic attainment a person has, the less likely they are to be susceptible to economic cycles.
What are some of the college’s most popular degree areas?
We’ve seen a tremendous increase in nursing applicants. There was a 29% increase in the number of eligible applicants to our nursing program for the January 2021 cohort. Healthcare, supply chain management and technology courses are also receiving a great deal of attention. Still, overall enrollment is down, which is not unusual among community colleges since we serve those who have faced the greatest challenges this last year. One of the things we have continued aggressively is our work through Broward UP™. We were in over 15 locations in Broward County prior to the pandemic and we continue to provide classes and workshops virtually at no cost to the community, serving more than 450 residents so far this academic year. We have eliminated the cost and, for some, the transportation barrier to education for many people. We have also partnered with the county on a $1 million Bridge Scholarship program that covers the outstanding tuition fees that are not covered by Pell Grants.
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