LEAP Tampa Bay Keeps College Completion Program Alive, Locally
TAMPA, Fla. -- Going back to school as an adult has many challenges, but Leap Tampa Bay is helping local students complete their degree with free personalized coaching. The new initiative at Leap Tampa Bay mirrors what used to be a statewide program called Complete Florida Plus. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the more than $29 million budget for the virtual program designed to help the state's almost 3 million adult college students.

Matt Smith worked for Complete Florida, and is now managing Leap's coaching program.

"Basically what I've learned is that when a student has somebody that they can always either reach out to or have a specific contact, they feel more emboldened to actually completing their degree," Smith said.

Funded mostly by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, Leap Tampa Bay aims to pay particular attention to creating opportunities and removing barriers for the region's Black, Hispanic and low-income populations.

A 2017 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau estimated about 330,000 adults in the Tampa Bay region have earned some college credit but never completed their degree. Smith said that experience is common, and the reasons vary.

"A lot of times, students kind of slip through the cracks just because, A: they either have a life experience come about, or B: maybe they just didn't have a good experience because maybe they couldn't contact an individual at a school based off of what was going on for them," he said.

Smith said the program works with several local education partners including the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College, Hillsborough Technical Colleges and Pinellas Technical College. He encourages anyone interested in the program to visit completeTB.org.

Support for this reporting was provided to PNS by Lumina Foundation.

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