Valencia, UCF Receive $1.3M from Helios Education Foundation to Increase Number of Graduates Through Student Stipends and Support

Orlando, FL (June 27, 2023) – Valencia College and the University of Central Florida are embarking on a new strategic partnership to boost transfer student success, funded by a $1.3 million grant from Helios Education Foundation.

Led by the UCF/Valencia Improving Student Success Task Force, the new pilot program will provide additional support to students before and after their transfer from Valencia to UCF.

“The Helios grant presents a real opportunity for us to improve students’ readiness to transfer to UCF and shorten the amount of time needed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree,” said Valencia College President Kathleen Plinske.

“DirectConnect to UCF is an important pathway to help students earn life-changing bachelor’s degrees and become part of the talent pipeline that fuels Central Florida’s industries,” said UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “Thanks to the support of Helios Education Foundation, more students will be well-prepared to launch or advance their careers faster, jump-starting innovation and serving our community.”

The new grant will support Valencia College DirectConnect transfer students in the Fall 2023, Spring 2024, and Summer 2024 semesters, and provide them with Helios-funded incentives for the following:

  •  $500 toward the completion of up to three courses at Valencia to complete the common program prerequisites aligned with a student’s degree pathway
  • $250 for having completed an Associate in Arts degree and the common program prerequisites prior to transfer to UCF
  • $500 financial aid award for part-time students to continue their studies at UCF part-time and supplement their financial aid in the transition from Valencia to UCF

Additionally, Valencia students will be encouraged to participate in a SEE UCF tour, which stands for Students Early Exploration, with food and transportation provided. In addition to the financial incentives, the grant will cover program costs, staffing, and data analysis for the length of the grant.

Using data from the Central Florida Educational Ecosystem Database (CFEED) and based on a Fall 2022 pilot which focused on students transferring to UCF’s College of Business, Valencia and UCF have identified multiple interventions to increase the success of transfer students between their institutions. The Helios grant will be used to expand the pilot and serve transfer students within all programs.

“Helios Education Foundation’s investment in DirectConnect provides Central Florida students both on-campus and financial supports to ensure completion of their Valencia College degree as the first step toward completion of a bachelor’s degree at UCF,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.

The DirectConnect to UCF partnership is recognized as one of the leading transfer programs in the country. Since its inception in 2006, more than 42,000 UCF bachelor’s degrees have been awarded to Valencia College students, accounting for nearly a quarter of UCF’s baccalaureate graduates.


About Helios Education Foundation:

Helios Education Foundation was founded on four fundamental beliefs – community, equity, investment, partnership – and with one purpose: To create opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. Helios invests all along the education continuum to help close education equity gaps and increase success among low-income and Latino students in Arizona, and low-income and Black students in Florida. By using research and data to identify the best ways to improve student success, Helios aims to increase the number of students who read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, the number of students who enroll in college, and the number who complete a postsecondary degree. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $324 million in education initiatives in Arizona and Florida. To learn more about Helios, visit


About UCF:

The University of Central Florida is a public research university in Orlando that unleashes the potential of people and ideas to positively change the world. Founded in 1963, UCF and its 13 colleges offer more than 230 degrees from the university’s main campus, downtown campus, hospitality campus, health sciences campus, online and through multiple regional locations. UCF is an academic, partnership and research leader in optics and lasers, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, hospitality, health care and video game design. According to U.S. News & World Report, UCF ranks among the nation’s 20 most innovative universities.


About Valencia College:

Serving nearly 70,000 students at 10 campuses and training centers across Central Florida, Valencia College is recognized as one of the top community colleges in the nation. The college offers a variety of associate and bachelor’s degrees and short-term, job training programs, with industry leading rates of graduation, transfer and job placement, as recognized by the Aspen Institute, Achieving the Dream and other national organizations.