Leveraging the power of community collaboration to accelerate personal, workforce, and community prosperity through education.

Introducing:  LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network

LEAP Tampa Bay is a network of more than 60 community partners committed to changing lives by connecting residents to education and training beyond high school.  A cross-sector network convened to promote their community-wide commitment to college access and attainment, LEAP leaders use a collective impact model of collaboration to guide coordinated need-based strategies by partners from across business, education, government and non-profits. All the work is geared at increasing attainment of high-quality degrees and career and technical training credentials to help build Tampa Bay’s workforce talent base.

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Chuck Tiernan
Senior Director,
LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network
Dominique Gardner
Program Manager, LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network
Matt Smith
College Completion Coach, LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network



Of working age adults hold a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.

LEAP Tampa Bay’s “North Star” Goal, our 6% improvement in the attainment rate (now at 55.2%) after five years of collaborative work exceeds the rate for the State of Florida.


Support the more than 330,000 some college no degree adults in our region to complete.

Our Talent Hub initiative College Completion Coaching program is already supporting nearly 900 students, with more than 250 having already re-applied/re-enrolled.


Close the gaps for students of color in the area of access and attainment of postsecondary credentials. 

Students of color lag far behind peers in attending school within one year of high school graduation, as well as credit accumulation after two years, in some cases as much as 25 percentage points behind.

Increase the percentage of traditional students completing the FAFSA and attending education or training after high school within one year.

With our school district partners improving their high school graduation rates, helping students see and grasp the opportunities available for further education and training is paramount to our workforce’s ability to compete.

Key Initiatives

Complete Tampa Bay College Coaching Initiative

Launched by a grant from Lumina Foundation, a national leader in post-secondary attainment, our completion coach supports returning adult learners by 1) helping them find the right school and pathway for re-engagement; 2) complete the financial aid process; 3) maximize credits they’ve already earned; and 4) access other basic needs resources. The work strategically aligns with State of Florida completion initiatives and pays special attention to anyone within 12 credits of earning their degree or certificate. Technical colleges, United Way, as well as local Urban League organizations are partners in delivering the many types of community support students need.  

College partners have all signed data sharing MOUs with the LEAP network, allowing the coach’s outreach to be seamless as possible. 

The benefits are clear. Not only does our workforce gain more skilled employees, but individuals who complete a credential, like an Associate Degree, earn up to 16% more on average and are 27% less likely to be unemployed than those with a high school diploma (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019).  

Since the 2018-19 school year, LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network and partners have championed the expansion of high school-based, volunteer-led College and Career Centers. This school-based center model was designed to give high school students a deeper level of support for college and financial aid planning, college entrance test preparation, as well as strengthen parent and student engagement in the process of preparing for a student’s next step.

The centers were modeled after a successful center at Robinson High School in Hillsborough County, which over a six-year period helped the school regularly be a district-wide leader in students completing Financial Aid (FAFSA), earning scholarships and completing College Entrance applications.  

Even during a school year (19-20) abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, one easy measure of a center’s impact is its ability to support students applying for financial aid. The FAFSA results at these schools begin to clearly demonstrate the centers’ value. Four of the six schools operating last year had increases in FAFSA completion ranging from 5.1% to 12.8% points above district average, with two at or near the top of their district performance.

Fuse Scholarships

A scholarship program designed to amplify the Fuse: Guaranteed Admission to University of South Florida pathway program, LEAP Tampa Bay partners collaboratively raised $3 million dollars and have funded 459 students with awards of $5,500 each to date.  Fuse students start at local state (or community) colleges and transfer to USF with direct admission to their major.  Their scholarship follows them along the entire path, supporting them incrementally with funding as they continue their pathway.  


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“LEAP is a model for building, strengthening and empowering communities throughout Tampa Bay to close equity gaps in postsecondary attainment. The City of Tampa is proud to partner with LEAP and is grateful for its contributions to improving the quality of life for our residents through degree and credential attainment.”

Mayor Jane Castor, City of Tampa Bay
ounding Partner of LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network.
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“LEAP leverages its collective framework to lower systemic barriers, thus increasing 2- and 4-year degrees as well as “stacking” credentials for limited income, Black and Brown populations, and first-generation college students in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.”

Dr. Tonjua Williams, President
St. Petersburg College, Founding Partner of LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network
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“In five years, LEAP has pulled together a multi-sector network of community partners, programs and initiatives that has Tampa Bay well on its way to not only meeting this (60%) goal, but surpass it. In addition to the progress LEAP’s collective impact model has made toward degree attainment, it has provided the bonus benefit of serving as a strong corporate recruitment tool.”  C

Craig Richard, CEcD, President and CEO
ampa Bay Economic Development Council, Founding Partner of LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network.