Sean Brooks goes to community college, but he already knows that he’ll graduate from a four-year state university, and he even knows which one—the University of Central Florida.
His confidence flows from an innovative Florida program called DirectConnect, which ensures that student transfers to UCF from Valencia College, a community-college system, are automatic.
This unusual arrangement between the two Orlando-based institutions of higher education relieves Brooks of worry about whether his credits will transfer or whether he’ll need to apply separately for a bachelor’s degree in his desired field of construction and engineering. Instead, he can concentrate on his classwork at Valencia, where the 28-year-old husband and father is thriving in the small classes—his calculus course has barely two dozen students—and is the president of the school’s Florida Engineering Society chapter. When he is ready to transfer to UCF, part of the state’s university system, DirectConnect advisers will make sure he has the necessary credits.
DirectConnect was launched in 2006 after Valencia’s president, Sandy Shugart, and University of Central Florida president John Hitt saw a growing need for local residents to have an opportunity for higher education. Over the years, UCF had become more selective—accepting just 40 percent of applicants, down from its historical 72 percent—making it harder for local students to get in. “The demand for higher education all over Florida was exceeding the supply,” Shugart says.