Help protect Polk State’s Lake Wales Campus, workforce training opportunities in southeast Polk
by Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti, President, Polk State College
The 2019 Legislative Session concluded May 4 with the budget now awaiting Governor Ron DeSantis’ approval. For the second time in three years, $2.5 million of Polk State College’s recurring operational budget supporting our Lake Wales Campus—more than 5 percent of the College’s total budget – is at risk of being vetoed. This line item is one of 14 Florida College System items listed separately.
This line item, titled Polk State College Access to Academic and Workforce Programs, was originally allocated to the College during the 2011 Legislative Session to fund the Polk State JD Alexander Center, the Lake Wales Campus, inexpanding educational opportunities to residents in rural southeast Polk County. These critical funds operate and staff theCampus, serving an average of 1,100 students – nearly 10 percent of the College’s total student population – annually with classes, support services, and programming that enables students to complete associate and workforce baccalaureate degreeprograms.
Seventy-eight percent of students enrolled at the Lake Wales Campus are either female or a minority; most are the first in their families to go to College; and many have limited access to transportation. Additionally, 44 percent of Lake Wales Campus students receive the federal, need-based Pell Grant to complete their education. For many in rural southeast Polk, this Campus is the only affordable and accessible higher education option at which to pursue education and workforce training.
We ask our community to come together to protect the Lake Wales Campus. We respectfully suggest contacting Governor DeSantis to request his support of Polk State College Access to Academic and Workforce Programs, Lake Wales Campus. Governor DeSantis’ office may be reached by calling 850-717-9337 or writing to 400 S. Monroe Street Tallahassee, FL 32399or www.flgov.com/email-the-governor.
Polk State is grateful to the Polk County Legislative Delegation for its support during the 2019 Legislative Session and is dedicated to working closely with members of our local delegation to ensure Governor DeSantis is aware of the criticality of preserving Polk State’s Lake Wales Campus. Governor DeSantis has illustrated his understanding of the critical role state colleges play in the economic development of Florida through his initiatives including Charting a Course for Florida to Become Number 1 in the Nation in Workforce Education by 2030 and Ensuring Florida Students are Prepared for the Jobs of the Future. During this critical juncture, we turn to Governor DeSantis for his support in protecting Polk State’sLake Wales Campus to ensure education and workforce needs are met throughout Polk County and beyond.