Several months ago, my first reaction to the thought of another study in Gainesville about inequities was we should just spend the funds in the areas we know that need funding. I was wrong.
The results of the “Racial Inequity in Alachua County” report definitively state the abject, inexplicable inequity that exists in our region. The most compelling fact is that 44.6 percent of African-American children in Alachua County live in poverty. Unfortunately, that information portends similar results for employment and minority-owned businesses.
The good news is that Santa Fe College is resetting its expectations and programs to address the needs of the underserved. We currently spend $2.6 million in programs that advise and support students who come from financial backgrounds that are of below average income.
Santa Fe is an open admissions college, meaning that regardless of a student’s income or academic preparation, he or she can enter the college with a high school degree or GED and then progress through our tutoring and academic support programs that move them to college-level work.
A certificate or diploma is then within reach, which leads to a life-sustaining job or entrance to one of our nine baccalaureate degree programs or another college or university.
Our two tracks are our technical programs and our transfer program. A student can begin in one of our technical programs and earn a certificate after a few months or persist to the end of that program and then enter the workforce well prepared to earn a life-sustaining income.
Included in our technical programs is an apprenticeship program, which allows a student to work for a company, attend evening classes for up to four years and then earn an apprenticeship certificate. The company pays for the tuition and the student earns an income while attending class.
Upon graduation, the student then has an opportunity for a solid career.
Our Career and Technical Education Programs consist of 29 certificates (14 career and technical certificates and 15 college-credit certificates), which are shorter in term, and 38 degrees programs (29 associate in applied science and associate in science degrees and nine bachelor’s degrees), all of which serve our community and the students well.
We are known best for our transfers to our best partner, the University of Florida. Students who meet the Santa Fe standard can transfer to this great university prepared to do as well as a resident UF student. We know this by comparing our students at the end of their junior year with the resident UF students. They do equally well.
Santa Fe’s Career and Job Placement Services Office reports that of all the students seeking and being placed in jobs, about 35 percent are minorities. However, we must do more.
In recent years, we have made additional efforts to recruit from minority populations in Alachua and Bradford counties by holding a career showcase at Mount Carmel Baptist Church and publishing ads in Conexion Latina and the Gainesville Guardian.
The college stands ready to work with all students, businesses and communities to radically change the immoral poverty rates in our region. We must grow jobs, and Santa Fe College must prepare all for a life of financial prosperity.