Postsecondary Completion Highlights

Our Priority: traditionally underserved students in Arizona and Florida access, persist and complete a high-quality, postsecondary certificate or degree

About Our Work

Today, too many of Arizona’s and Florida’s high school graduates require remediation upon entry into college. Additionally, less than 40 percent of our states’ working-age adults hold at least an associate’s degree at a time when a larger percentage of entry-level jobs are requiring some form of postsecondary education.(4) In order to help even more students pursue and complete an education beyond high school, the Foundation assessed its postsecondary completion strategies in 2013 to ensure greater impact across both states.

The assessment led to a refinement of the Foundation’s postsecondary strategies and to the creation of a dedicated program director position. With this added capacity, the Foundation gains a better understanding of the postsecondary education landscape, including best practices in effective support and scholarship programs especially for first-generation students in Arizona and Florida.

The Foundation surveyed a number of colleges and universities in Arizona and Florida to gather input on the kinds of postsecondary completion programs that already exist, where there was interest or activity aligned to Helios’ revised strategies, and identification of opportunities to craft more comprehensive, effective programs that will impact more students.

Through those survey results, additional research and evaluation, a decade of investment history and a new staff person dedicated to this area, the Foundation is working to ensure traditionally underserved students access, persist and attain a high-quality postsecondary certificate or degree.

Helios believes it can have a significant impact on Postsecondary Completion by:

  • Constructing scholarships to support postsecondary persistence and completion;
  • Supporting students in successfully completing developmental education and transitioning to credit-bearing coursework and
  • Guiding students toward certificate and degree pathways aligned with high- demand careers.

The Foundation’s early support of the First Generation Scholarship Program in Florida continued to create opportunities for students to achieve a postsecondary education throughout 2013.

The Biggest Barrier to Students Securing a Postsecondary Credential, Certificate, or Degree

Increasing the number of students, especially traditionally-underserved populations – first-generation, low-income, minority and rural – who complete postsecondary education is a priority for Helios Education Foundation. By strengthening student supports critical to persistence and aligning pathways to high-demand careers, more students in Arizona and Florida will attain a valued postsecondary degree or certificate.

In order to learn more and develop effective postsecondary education investment and engagement strategies, Helios invited 149 colleges, universities and organizations in Arizona and Florida to participate in an online survey focused on the Foundation’s Theory of Change around Postsecondary Completion. Here’s what 63 percent of respondents replied when asked to identify the biggest barriers to students achieving a postsecondary education:


First Generation Scholarships Change Lives

In 2006, Helios Education Foundation invested $10 million to fund the First Generation Scholars Program for students in the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System. The investment created a $5 million endowment in the State University System and a $5 million endowment in the Florida College System to provide scholarships for first- generation college students in perpetuity. Additionally, every scholarship awarded from the endowment is then eligible for a full match from Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant program.

Since that time, the Foundation's endowment has provided scholarships to first-generation college students, with a primary consideration given to students who are seeking a degree in education with plans to become a teacher in Florida. The scholarship program also provides each student with an individualized student-support plan based on their specific needs, such as advising, mentorships and referrals to campus resources.

Within the State University System, the program has supported 580 students since its inception who have graduated with a bachelor's degree, including 355 graduates in Teacher Education. Additionally, 174 State University System students were awarded scholarships totaling $233,700 during the 2012-2013 academic year.

The Florida College System Foundation has awarded over $2.7 million in scholarships to 2,759 students since its inception. During the 2012-2013 academic year, 550 Florida College System students were awarded scholarships totaling $438,539.

Helios Education Foundation has received heartfelt thank-you letters, notes and photos from students who have benefited from the program. Some of those students are featured above.