Too many arriving at college unprepared. More Florida college students graduate with loan debt.

Don’t let the depressing headlines get you.

Over the last weekend, those were the titles, respectively, of an op/ed in The Tampa Bay Times and a news story in The Orlando Sentinel that featured commentary and original research from Florida C.A.N.!

We believe that higher education is an excellent investment and a social good that transforms the lives of low-income and first-generation college students. Our research supports it, and that is why we are committed to helping Florida communities build local college access networks throughout the state.

On December 6, an opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times written by Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, advocated for stronger education standards using research from our June 2013 policy brief on Common Core and college access.

“A report in June by the Florida College Access Network presents some sobering numbers that illustrate our state’s need for continuing support of new, effective educational standards like the Common Core,” cautioned Moore. “Only 69 percent of our state’s public high school graduates who enroll in college ultimately earn at least one year’s worth of college credit within their first two years. That is lost time, money and dreams.”

 Like us, Moore supports the Common Core State Standards as a way to increase the number of Florida high school graduates who arrive at higher learning institutions ready to tackle college-level work. “By exposing students to more rigorous college-level courses early on,” Moore concludes, “we can increase their chance for success as they progress from high school to higher learning institutions.

On December 8, Troy Miller, Florida C.A.N.! senior researcher and policy analyst was featured in an Orlando Sentinel story on how more Florida university grads leave college with student loan debt.

While the news that the student debt loads of Florida public university students had risen by a third over the past five years, from $17,843 in 2008-09 to $20,298 in 2012-13, Miller remarked that the bachelor’s degrees financed by those loans is still a good investment.

“One of the things we want to make sure that the message is clear about … is that college is worth it, and that information like this [debt] shouldn’t discourage young people from aspiring to attend college,” Miller said. The research shows that over a lifetime, bachelor’s degree holders earn $2.3 million versus the $1.3 million lifelong earnings accrued by workers with just a high school diploma.

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