DirectConnect at Valencia Wins National Excelencia Award

Valencia College’s DirectConnect to UCF program has been selected by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, as America’s top program for increasing academic opportunities and success for Latino students at the associate level. Valencia was one of three honorees at a gala on Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C. Top honors also went to programs run by California State University Bakersfield and the University of Texas, El Paso.

All honorees had to demonstrate that they effectively boost Latino enrollment, performance and graduation. The DirectConnect to UCF program was introduced in 2006 to expand students’ access to higher education. The program offers guaranteed admission to the University of Central Florida for graduates of Valencia and three other Central Florida colleges. Today, nearly a quarter of the baccalaureate graduates of UCF, the nation’s second largest university, are transfer students from Valencia.

“Valencia College is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.

Dr. Joyce Romano, vice president of Student Affairs, accepted the award and a $5,000 check on behalf of the college. “This honor is recognition of Valencia’s commitment to Latino student success by building pathways for students to complete a bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Valencia’s service to the Hispanic community is noteworthy in the following ways:

  • Hispanics account for almost 31 percent of the 60,770 degree-seeking students at Valencia.
  • Because enrollment exceeds 25 percent Hispanic, with at least half coming from lower-income families, Valencia is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.
  • Valencia ranks 5th among the nation’s colleges and universities in the number of associate degrees awarded to Hispanic students. (Community College Week Top 100, 2012)
  • Last December, Valencia was named the nation’s top community college as winner of the prestigious Aspen Prize. The Aspen Institute chose Valencia as the inaugural winner based on the strength of its graduation and transfer rates, particularly among minority students, as well as its workforce training programs which boast high job placement rates.

The practices used by the 2012 honorees and finalists were compiled in an Excelencia in Education report titled, “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education.” To download the report, visit

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