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Keeping Tuition Affordable Priority at Eastern Florida: President's State of the College Address

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April 9, 2014 - Holding the line on tuition and increasing financial aid for students are among the top priorities at Eastern Florida State College in the coming year.

That was the message Wednesday from President Dr. Jim Richey during a “State of the College” address where he discussed the institution’s progress since it became a state college last year.

Richey made the remarks at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa Campus, saying the college is building a dynamic future with new Bachelor Degrees and Associate Degrees that are giving students an opportunity to enter today’s best career fields by securing a good job upon graduation.

As a result, he said the college is playing a central role improving their lives and contributing to the well-being of their families and the region.

“Together, we are building the future in a dynamic way that has quickly made Eastern Florida State College a leading institution in Florida,” he said.

“An institution that people are looking to for new ideas and inspiration that will put them on paths to success in an era of rapid and often uncertain change. Through our collective efforts, we are fulfilling that mission in many ways.”

Richey cited the college’s strong state and national reputation that includes consistently high rankings in awarding Associate Degrees and graduation rates.

Those are among the reasons the college is in the running for the prestigious Aspen Prize, which will be awarded in early 2014 to the top community or state college in the nation.

He also said the college achieved a major milestone last fall when it launched its first two Bachelor Degrees, which are proving to be highly popular with students.

“That shows the critical need we are meeting in providing four-year degrees and doing it in a way that is affordable and in a format that allows students to stay close to home,” he said.

A new Center for Teaching Excellence providing faculty with the resources to spur classroom innovation, and a new Veterans Resource Center helping student veterans were also mentioned as important innovations.

Furthermore, Richey said the college’s Career Planning and Development Center has served more than 30,000 students through advising, career fairs, internships and other programs since it opened just over two years ago.

“That’s a strong achievement geared to getting students in the right career track from the first moment they step on campus,” he said.

Looking ahead, Richey said his top priority will be to continue holding the line against raising tuition in the coming 2014-15 Fiscal Year.

Richey has not raised tuition in two consecutive years since he became president in 2012 because “we must do everything possible to keep the cost of college affordable,” he said.

“Our students continue to face economic challenges in their personal lives, and an education at Eastern Florida that does not burden them with crushing debt is essential to their ability to graduate, start their careers and earn higher incomes.”

To that end, he said tuition at Eastern Florida remains among the lowest in the 28-member Florida College System of which the college is a member.

In another step to help keep costs within reach, he said the college will continue putting emphasis on growing the financial resources of the Eastern Florida State College Foundation.

The Foundation currently has a more than $18.2 million endowment, the largest in the college’s 54-year history, with hundreds of thousands of dollars available annually to help meet student financial aid needs.

“Fundraising efforts now underway are expected to increase the endowment further, providing more ways for us to help students study and graduate,” said Richey.

Richey also noted the college will start offering seven new Bachelor Degree programs in August in “another huge step forward for the college and our students.”

The programs were designed with significant input from regional businesses and industries whose leaders identified areas where they need skilled employees.

“As a result, all the degree tracks are in fields where job growth is strong, and expected to get stronger,” he said.

“More than anything, our community tells me how important the new four-year degrees, two-year degrees and certificate programs  are because of the opportunities they give family members, friends and co-workers that did not previously exist.”

The college has added a total of 22 new programs since 2012.

The new four-year degree tracks are:
•    Business: Sales and Marketing Management, Public Safety Management
•    Health Care: Advanced Allied Health, Biomedical Sciences
•    Computer Information Technologies: Computer Software Development, Computer Project Management, Computer Networking Systems

Richey also said the college is working on a new facilities master plan for expanding the Melbourne Campus that will call for the construction of three new academic buildings and other improvements during the next decade.

The buildings will house new Bachelor and Associate programs in a campus-wide setting that “resembles the collegiate environment of a traditional university,” he said.

In closing, Richey told the students, faculty and staff gathered that “the work we are doing today will resonate far into the future, shaping the lives of our students and community well into the 21st century.

“That is why each class we teach, each new program we start, each student we touch is so important.”

Links to a full speech transcript and a video replay are at the top of this page.