Continued education for students in community colleges is being made more attainable thanks to the DirectConnect Transfer Scholarship and the Johnson Education Scholarship Foundation.
The Direct Connect program, which began in 2006, guarantees students enrolled in Brevard Community College, Lake-Sumter Community College, Valencia College and Seminole State College admittance in to UCF.
DirectConnect is now partnered with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which began last year. It is funded through private donations, with an emphasis on supporting disadvantaged students throughout the nation.
The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has committed $1 million in matching funds to benefit students while they are enrolled in the colleges participating in the DirectConnect program.
For every dollar these colleges give, UCF and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation will match a dollar.
In order for a student to be eligible, they must enroll in at least 12 credit hours during the fall and spring semesters, and they must complete the FAFSA before the due date.
Students no longer need to choose between working full-time, going to school or joining the workforce right after high school.
With the increasing opportunities available, in addition to the full support of the staff at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, students are now entitled to their share of generosity that colleges are sending their way.
Students have not yet received the benefit of this new foundation, but will be able to apply for the money matched by the Johnson Scholarship Foundation as early as fall 2014. The original plan for the foundation was to give out scholarships this year, but because of problems with some of the colleges changing their names, money distribution will begin in fall.
Kelly Dowling, senior director of development for UCF’S College of Business Administration, said due to the process of changing Brevard Community College’s name to Brevard State College, it’s taking a little longer to get all the proper paperwork in order. However, students should be able to apply for this scholarship as early as next year.
“I am happy to say we’ve met that goal 100 percent. We have raised $4 million since we started,” Dowling said. “But we don’t currently have a scholarship available for this term. We’re shooting for fall 2014 as the next scholarship term.”
Robert Holmes Jr., CEO of the UCF Foundation, wrote in a letter to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation dated March 2013, that due to this transition, the organization is holding off awarding students until fall semester of next year.
“We shall keep you posted as to the programmatic aspect and as to the preparations made to select and award the first group of students,” Holmes said in the letter.
Dowling said despite the delay, teachers have been putting students first.
“It took some time to get all four colleges to agree, but they have come together and put the students before themselves,” she said.
In the future, Dowling hopes to see this model take on an international scale.
The Johnson Scholarship Foundation was started in January 2012. Each community college, since then, has contributed to an endowment designated for its students at the UCF Foundation.
The number of students who have taken advantage of the clause in the DirectConnect program, which is a guarantee of admittance to UCF once they graduate from the specified college, has grown exponentially since its inception.
Jay Davis, director of public relations and communications for Seminole State College, said there are a lot of students who are on the right track toward transferring from Seminole State to UCF once they graduate.
“We have 9,639 students currently enrolled in the DirectConnect program,” he said.
The scholarship requirements set by the Johnson Scholarship Foundation determine which of these students will receive the scholarship.
Davis said students’ grade history has no bearing on their eligibility for the scholarship once they’re enrolled at UCF.
It all depends on how much money the foundation has raised during the year, up until the day the fall semester begins.
“We encouraged the four schools that are partnered with us to meet the goal of $50,000 and we aimed to raise $100,000,” Dowling said.
For information and eligibility requirements for the scholarship, visit the DirectConnect website at http://www.regionalcampuses.ucf.edu/directconnect/ or contact Kelly Dowling at 407-823-2385.
Published in print and online for the Central Florida Future.