Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Mark Rosenberg, President, Florida International University
Alexis Roberson, College Student and Student Government Assistant Director of Diversity and Wellness, University of South Florida
Dr. Paul Perrault, Vice President, Research and Evaluation for Helios Education Foundation
Kimberly Lent, Assistant Director for Research and Policy, Florida College Access Network
On February 3, FCAN hosted Helios Education Foundation’s Dr. Paul Perrault to examine findings from a recent FCAN and Helios survey of Florida voters seeking to understand how residents perceive student access to and readiness for college, as well as the role higher education plays in Florida today and in the future.
“We wanted to collect data from all across the state of Florida, so we could talk about different regions, different demographics, and to understand what Floridians were thinking of higher education and education in general,” Perrault said.
Floridians continue to value the impact of a college degree or credential
Although the U.S. remains in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession, survey results reveal that 88% of Floridians believe a college degree or credential is at least somewhat important in today’s workforce.
Floridians were also asked about the level of education that was needed to be successful, and 79% of respondents said a college degree or credential leads to better economic and workforce outcomes.
Additionally, 54% of Floridians believe a bachelor’s degree or higher is essential to this success.
The role of higher education in Florida’s future
Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, noted that if Florida were a country, it would boast the 17th largest economy in the world. Wilson added that he’d like to see Florida surpass the world’s 10th largest economy (currently Mexico) in 10 years.
He believes education beyond high school is critical to achieving that goal.
“I think higher education, advanced training, certification…it’s all synonymous with what the future is all about,” Wilson said. “You can’t have a serious conversation about the future of Florida unless it includes everyone having an opportunity at earned success, which includes an opportunity at higher education.”
Dr. Mark Rosenberg, President of Florida International University, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re not going to move forward as a state unless we’re focused on finding ways to get our citizens more and better education,“ Rosenberg said. “Education gaps lead to opportunity gaps, which become income gaps.”
A degree or credential is more than just a piece of paper
Alexis Roberson, a junior at the University of South Florida, discussed the role higher education has played throughout her life.
From an early age, Roberson knew she wanted to be an attorney and understood she would have to earn the necessary education and credentials to practice law. Additionally, both of her parents are educators who strongly emphasized the importance of a college education. Roberson said she was inspired by the example they set.
“I saw firsthand through them how education allowed for them to have an equal chance for success in life, providing them with the necessary resources to succeed in the field they truly feel passionate about,” Roberson said.
To further illustrate how education transforms lives, Rosenberg shared the story of Vanessa Morales Silver, an FIU alum who was part of the university’s Fostering Panther Pride program that supports homeless and foster youth students.
Wilson also noted that higher levels of education serve as a protective factor against poverty. He encouraged listeners to visit the chamber’s Florida Gap Map, which provides the poverty rate for children under 18 in each zip code and gives community leaders throughout Florida important information on the schools in their region.
To learn more about the impact of higher education on Florida’s talent pool — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:
Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.