Cross College Alliance Enters Next Phase

Education

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY AUG 3, 2017

A college consortium aiming to rebrand the Gulf Coast as a college destination took another major step forward Wednesday with the launch of a new website and a rebranding of the loose collection of schools as the Cross College Alliance.

The network of campuses includes a half dozen schools all boasting their own reputation: New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Eckerd College and The Ringling/Florida State University campus. Dr. Laurey Stryker, manager of the Cross College Alliance, says the evolution of the consortium will help in resyncing the education resources of the region together while making the area more attractive to prospective students at each of the six involved schools.

“It’s something to build upon and use in the community as students consider whether to come here,” Stryker says. “They know it’s not just an individual college but other campuses here with events or courses and that they will have access to all of those.” The most obvious benefit for students remains cross registration; students enrolled at one of the six partnered schools may enroll at classes at any of the colleges. Thus far, only 25 students out of the collective 18,000-plus students at the schools have taken advantage of this since the announcement of the consortium in January 2016, but as more students and faculty learn the ropes of the new system, that number should rise significantly.

Dr. Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, says students at the art school who desire foreign language courses have taken advantage of the cross-registration opportunity. Stryker notes that students at Ringling may desire a job in China or Japan, so the fact those language classes are available at New College or Eckerd creates opportunities.

Thompson says the change in branding will also better bind the campuses. A new name and logo came out of the Ringling College Design Center with help from Ringling students and marketing professionals from all six schools. The change to the Cross College Alliance, Thompson notes, helps improve awareness of the entire network, whereas the past name, Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast (or more often C4), proved limiting because it led students to believe only the four major Sarasota area schools were contributing to the effort.

The schools on Wednesday announced a new memorandum of understanding signed by each of the schools, something Thompson says creates a needed informal infrastructure to connect the resources of the schools without forming an entire new nonprofit. “Before, it was basically a handshake,” he said. “Now it’s a formal agreement that binds the six of us together.”

A new website, at crosscollegealliance.org, right now includes links to each school’s website and a chance to explore the long-term vision of the consortium, from sharing resources during hurricanes to opportunities to unify branding. Stryker notes, for example, that the Ringling Underground program, which has always invited area college students to events free of charge, will now incorporate the Cross College Alliance branding on promotional materials.

Long-term, Stryker says the infrastructure in place now could allow the creation of whole education programs housed by the consortium instead of any one school. For example, certain digital arts skills could be usable by professionals in a variety of jobs from marketing to social services. Why not have a pooled resource program that students at all six schools could utilize? “How can we build something across the institutions in a way better than any one could do alone?” she says. “That’s the hope and dream.”

Photo courtesy Cross College Alliance: Students from six campuses come together to announce Cross College Alliance rebranding.

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