Since its start in 2006, the DirectConnect to UCF program has provided students with a clear path to earning a bachelor’s degree at UCF. The first program of its kind in the country, DirectConnect to UCF guarantees admission to UCF to students graduating from one of six state colleges, including Valencia.
The 50,000th degree earned through DirectConnect will be awarded at UCF’s Spring 2019 commencement. Since its inception, the program has allowed many students to earn degrees, and the number of students earning degrees through this program continues to grow. Since its inception in 2006, the number of first-generation college students awarded degrees through DirectConnect has increased from 552 to 1,647, a 197% increase. For minority students, there has been an increase of 382% as the number of students receiving degrees increased from 494 to 2,379 students. Additionally, the number of Pell-eligible students receiving degrees through DirectConnect faced a 375% increase, from 669 to 3,180 degrees awarded. This is representative of unparalleled access to affordable education and the impact that the program is having on social mobility.
Following graduation, more than half of UCF alumni (52%) choose to continue residing in Central Florida, taking advantage of the booming employment market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Central Florida has been among the top regions in the country for job growth over the past four consecutive years. Furthermore, studies show that those with a college education make more money. A bachelor’s degree translates to an additional $450,000 to $655,000 more in median lifetime earnings.
For Victor Rodriguez, UCF’s Ronald E. McNair Scholar, the potentially life-changing impact of a college degree motivated him to continue pursuing his education. As a young boy, Rodriguez faced family challenges such as homelessness that caused him to bounce from school to school. He struggled to maintain good grades but was determined to earn a college degree regardless. Rodriguez attended Valencia College, and it was there that he learned of the DirectConnect program.
“The DirectConnect program provided a clear plan to allow me to transfer to UCF without the concern if I would be accepted,” he says. “They did that by having knowledgeable advisors that could tell me exactly what I had to do. The best part is that there are many courses available for my degree that transfer directly to my degree at UCF.”
Rodriguez notes that Valencia’s assistance with the DirectConnect program allowed him to take advantage of all UCF resources such as research, coursework, and the scholar’s program, and to pursue his mechanical engineering degree. He will be graduating from UCF this May with a spot at Carnegie Mellon University to study engineering policy.
Strong partnerships, early student engagement, specially-trained success coaches, and plenty of resources with which to fight “transfer shock” have allowed this program to change the lives of thousands of students.
“The DirectConnect program provides a sense of clarity and ease,” Rodriguez says. “It sets one up for success in studies at UCF. The same cannot be said of other programs or institutions. Especially for students like myself who may not be ready to transfer to a large university directly out of high school and need more time and assistance to think about what it is we want and plan how to get there.”