Free museum tickets and a couple dozen students enjoying cross registration may not seem like a huge deal, but college leaders on the Gulf Coast say these aspects of a Cross College Alliance between all major higher education students mark notable steps toward a potential transformation of higher education for the region. The six-college network, previously known as the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, intends to resync resources and rebrand the region as a powerful college town. “It’s something to build upon and use in the community as students consider whether to come here,” says Dr. Laurey Stryker, manager of the Cross College Alliance. “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.” Of course, the surface rewards remain modest. A total of 18,000 students started school this year at the various campuses (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). In the first year and a half of the consortium, only about 25 took advantage of cross-registration, but Stryker expects that to grow. More importantly, she says colleges can now calibrate their offerings in a way that accounts for cross-registration. Advisors for animation students at Ringling who want to learn Japanese can be directed to USFSM for classes. Or USFSM and New College can potentially coordinate course loads for marine science programs. A new memorandum of understanding and user-friendly website should also help ratchet up the profile of the relationship as a broader multi-college community forms. “Before, it was basically a handshake,” says Dr. Larry Thompson, Ringling College president. “Now it’s a formal agreement that binds the six of us together.”