Polk State College is celebrating the preservation of funding for the Polk State JD Alexander Center, the College’s Lake Wales Campus, and the College’s success in securing recurring operational support during the 2019 Legislative Session.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the 2019-2020 state budget Friday, which includes the $2.5 million-line item titled Polk State College Access to Academic and Workforce Programs used to staff and operate the Lake Wales Campus. The College was also victorious in securing $1.25 million in recurring operational funds to reduce the advisor-to-student ratio, support the Pathways Initiative, and enhance campus safety and security.
“We are incredibly grateful to Governor DeSantis, the Polk County Legislative Delegation, and members of the Polk County community for supporting our students,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Thanks to the advocacy of local businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development councils, community partners, and more, a Polk State education will remain in reach for all residents of Polk County.”
“We are incredibly grateful to Governor DeSantis, the Polk County Legislative Delegation, and members of the Polk County community for supporting our students. Thanks to the advocacy of local businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development councils, community partners, and more, a Polk State education will remain in reach for all residents of Polk County.”
— Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti
The preservation of $2.5 million to operate Polk State’s Lake Wales Campus allows the College to continue to serve approximately 1,100 students each year at the location. In a county where 38 percent of residents are transportation disadvantaged and at a campus where 44 percent of students receive federal need-based Pell Grants, preserving Polk State’s presence in rural southeast Polk County provides access to quality higher education and workforce education in a largely underserved region.
Polk State and the Polk County community will also benefit greatly from the $1.25 million budgeted for recurring operational support, which will expand initiatives proven to boost student retention and completion, including further reducing the advisor-to-student ratio and fostering faculty mentoring, internship, and experiential learning opportunities. In the fall, the College will implement the Pathways Initiative – a comprehensive strategy designed to help students navigate the most direct path from their first classes to graduation. Additionally, part of the recurring operational support will be used to increase the presence of armed deputies at all Polk State locations.
While the 2019 Legislative Session was largely successful for Polk State, the College did not receive Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds to address much-needed renovations to Building 4 on the Winter Haven Campus. Additionally, none of the state colleges received PECO funds for maintenance of facility space and parking lots, leaving Polk State $716,000 short on funding to address minor repairs and maintenance for more than 2 million square feet of facility space.
“The College is looking carefully at all aspects of the budget in light of the issues related to PECO funding,” Falconetti said. “Our goal is to ensure that Polk State remains a safe, quality institution of learning for our community.”
She pointed to Polk State’s 96.9 percent job-placement and continuing-education rate, as well as the 70 percent of Polk State students who remain in Polk County after graduation.
“The College’s success is the success of Polk County and the state of Florida,” Falconetti said. “It is important that we continue to advocate in the best interest of our students which will, in turn, foster the economic development and positive growth of our community.”
“We are honored that our Governor, our legislators, and our community understand the critical role Polk State plays in building a bright future for the state of Florida,” she added. “Together, we will continue to transform lives one student at a time as we move ahead into another prosperous year for Polk State College.”