Sixty elected and appointed municipal officials, education policy experts, grant makers and community leaders from throughout Florida attended the first-ever Florida City Leaders Forum on College Access and Success, hosted by the Florida College Access Network in partnership with the National League of Cities (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education and Families Institute (YEF Institute).  The special luncheon and afternoon forum, held on October 15 in Tampa as a special event preceding the Third Annual Florida College Access and Success Summit, focused on how Florida cities can partner effectively with leaders in education, business, nonprofits, philanthropy and other government agencies to increase opportunities for postsecondary education—particularly for low income constituents—in order to strengthen the local workforce and communities as a whole.

Event attendees, who traveled from as far away as Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Fort Myers, were treated to a riveting luncheon address by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who electrified the audience with the message that a well-educated workforce is the currency of successful cities.  Luncheon speakers included University of South Florida Provost Ralph Wilcox, who described the university’s successful efforts to close the achievement gap for low income students; Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel, who painted the vision of a well-educated workforce as a critical economic driver; and Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette, Education Commissioner for the City of Jacksonville, who described Mayor Alvin Brown’s initiatives to boost education attainment for low-income students.  The Kresge Foundation served as luncheon sponsor.

Afternoon sessions focused on strategies that city leaders can employ boost college access and attainment.  A panel of grant makers including Caroline Altman Smith with The Kresge Foundation, Jeanna Keller Berdel with Lumina Foundation, Dr. Stacy Carlson with Helios Education Foundation, and Sarah Owen with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation described their commitment to fostering “local college access networks” or “LCANs,” which are regional multi-sector strategic alliances devoted to increasing postsecondary access and attainment.  Then subject experts for Florida initiatives dedicated to college and career aspirations and readiness, college access, college affordability, and postsecondary performance and completion led a series of informal discussions around specific strategies that cities can replicate in their communities.  Likewise, national education experts with the NLC YEF Institute facilitated conversations about cities’ economic priorities as well as action planning around participants’ next steps.

PowerPoint materials and handouts from the event are available here. For more information or to learn how your city can participate in efforts to boost college access and attainment, contact Laurie Meggesin at

The Third Annual Florida College Access and Success Summit was made possible thanks to the generosity of Presenting Sponsor Helios Education Foundation; Platinum Sponsors Wells FargoThe Kresge Foundation, and University of South Florida; Premiere Sponsors The Lumina Foundation and WUSF Public Media; and Supporting Sponsors The Boeing Company and Publix Supermarkets.


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