TAMPA, Fla. -- Using a newly awarded grant, LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network is teaming up with Complete Florida to get people who have some college credits or technical training back to school.
The program has been in the planning stages since before the pandemic hit. But, Chuck Tiernan, the Tampa Bay Senior Director of the LEAP network, said the timing couldn't have been better.
Tiernan explained what a personal coach, similar to what an adviser would do for you.
"The first thing that the coaches do with you is they will walk you through what credits have you earned previously and talk to you about what your current goals are," Tiernan said. "They work with which school fit is going to be the best for you. They then will work to get you connected to the admissions office and financial aid office. And find out what financial aid is available. If you went to a different school to start with, how many credits can transfer and what you can do to make sure you maximized your experience prior and get credit for all the things that you've done."
Tiernan hopes to help thousands of people across the Tampa Bay area get back into a college, university, technical school or online class. With over 50 community partners, Tiernan said a little hard work could go a long way, and coaches stick with you through the process.
"You get a coach from your initial interest all the way through graduation, and they encourage, they provide information and get you connected to community resources," Tiernan said.
The grant primarily funded by the Lumina Foundation partners with Complete Tampa Bay's personalized coaching model to help returning adult learners finish their schooling.
Complete Tampa Bay's local education partners include the University of South Florida, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College, Hillsborough Technical Colleges and Pinellas Technical College.
Tiernan says an estimated 330,000 adults living in Tampa Bay have earned some credits but never completed their college degrees and/or credentialing programs, according to a 2017 American Community Survey. This grant targets that group and other disadvantaged populations to get them in school, graduated and onto high-paying jobs.
"Just don't ever give up on it. Know there are people that want to remove those barriers for you," Tiernan said. "Education is one of those things that levels the playing field for people to lift themselves up."