I had the pleasure of spending three days last week at the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) 2015 Annual Conference. This is my second time around and it was wonderful to see many friends from Penn Foster’s partner schools - many of whom I directly work with - and some new faces.
What always strikes me talking with campus and school leadership is just how complex the state of Florida can be to operate in. Florida is generally considered a friendlier state to operate a school within its borders. However, there have been more than a few news stories as of late criticizing specifically for-profit schools and more generally, vocational schools.
Some of these stories miss the much larger issue in the state of Florida. The state - and it’s not alone in doing so - has created essentially a two-tiered system for students that pass the FCAT (the state high school exit exam) and for students that fail the exam. Students who fail the exam receive a certificate of completion that does not qualify a student to attend postsecondary education or receive financial aid. Many of these students are bright, motivated, and ambitious to pursue a postsecondary education but have been essentially locked out of the system.
Enter my conversations with campus leaders at FAPSC and they will tell you they turn away far too many students for this very reason. Penn Foster - and myself as a Partner Solutions Manager - are able to help address this issue with our High School Completion Program, but the sheer volume of students who fall into this predicament still amazes me. The FCAT isn’t likely to go away anytime soon and it does require schools to consider their options of how to work with these students.
The good news is, despite this clear barrier to entry for students with only a certificate of completion, the FAPSC member schools do have alternative options to assist these students. Students who have not aged out of the system can attempt to retake the FCAT or go to an adult school. Older students are able to earn a GED, or enroll in a High School Completion program to earn their High School Diploma. There are still not enough FAPSC schools utilizing these options to address the two-tiered system issue, but if any group of schools can make good progress towards providing these solutions for students, it’s these folks.
As a group, the FAPSC schools do a tremendous job providing access to postsecondary education and I look forward to spending more time with them next year.
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