Lake Nona’s Impact on “Got College?”

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

While “Got College?” is an effort to increase the college-going rate in Osceola County, our Lake Nona Campus, located in Orange County, has played a significant role in providing access to higher education for students located in the eastern region of Valencia’s service district, including those living in Osceola County.

Historically, Osceola County has had one of the lowest college-going rates in the state of Florida. In 2010, about 40 percent of Osceola County students enrolled in a public, post-secondary institution in the state of Florida in the fall after their high school graduation, which ranked 61st of 67 counties in Florida. While much of our initial focus was on increasing access to higher education in Poinciana, the college-going rate at St. Cloud High School in 2010 was 34.5 percent, almost as low as the high schools in Poinciana. And while Harmony’s college-going rate in 2010 was higher (42.6 percent), it was still significantly below the state average (51.7 percent).

By 2015, Osceola County’s college-going rate overall had increased substantially. The college-going rate at St. Cloud had increased to 54.3 percent, and at Harmony it was 52.6 percent. Much of this growth is attributable to an increase in the percentage of students attending Valencia (rather than not going to college at all), and many who chose to attend Valencia enrolled at the Lake Nona Campus.In fact, imagine you were to ask each student who enrolled at the Lake Nona Campus this year, “Where did you graduate from high school?” It’s not surprising that about 20 percent would say Lake Nona High School; that is by design, and Lake Nona High School’s 2015 college-going rate was 57 percent. It is perhaps a bit surprising, however, that about 15 percent of all students enrolled at the Lake Nona Campus would say they graduated from Harmony or St. Cloud High Schools.

There is no question that the Lake Nona Campus plays an important role in making higher education accessible for students in both counties and helps move us toward Objective 3.4 of our Campus Plan that aspires to a college-going rate in Osceola County higher than 50 percent. A special thanks to the faculty and staff at the Lake Nona Campus for creating such a welcoming environment on campus!

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