decorative image of lastmile , Auto Draft 2020-02-03 10:54:25 Published: 02-03-2020

Governor’s ‘Last Mile’ initiative pays tuition for former students with 12 credit hours or less to go

By Troy Moon Pensacola State College

So, you’ve been out of school for a few years now, but you’re only a few credit hours away from graduating.

Well, Pensacola State College wants you to come back to finish what you started. Heck, even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants you to come back.

How bad do they want you back?

Enough to let you return to school for free.

PSC is one of the 28 Florida colleges participating in Gov. DeSantis’ “Last Mile College Completion Program,” which offers free tuition to students close to finishing their degree.

To qualify for the program, students must:

• Be a Florida resident
• The student must have attended Pensacola State College within the past eight years and be in good academic standing.
• Be within 12 credit hours of completing their first associate or baccalaureate degree
• The student must not have attended PSC within the last two semesters.

Former PSC student Christopher Gabel hopes to become a current PSC student using the program. The 31-year-old Gulf Winds Credit Union employee graduated from PSC Adult High in 2006, then took college classes at PSC and Tallahassee Community College.

But fatherhood and life took priority. His last college course was at PSC four years ago.

“I was working three jobs,” Gabel said. “I had a 2-year-old. The time was not right. But I always wanted to go back. Now, my son is six and I’m able to work just one job. I’m at a position to move up with the company, but I would at least need a two-year degree.”

He was a general studies student the first go-round. Upon his return, a wiser and more focused Gabel hopes to study business management.

“I’m the first person in my direct family to get this far in college,” Gabel said. “My father paid for me to live in Tallahassee and go to school. I want to finish this degree for him and my own piece of mind.”

Florida ranks 24th in the number of people age 25 to 64 years of age who have an associate degree or higher.

decorative image of gabelcompare , Auto Draft 2020-02-03 10:43:23

Christopher Gabel, shown at left during his earlier days at PSC and currently, right, hopes to become a current PSC student using the Last Mile College Completion Program.

“I think nationally, we’re seeing fewer and fewer people complete their degrees,” said Kathy Dutremble, PSC Dean of Student Services. “This initiative will help students earn a qualification that can help them with a job. Those with a secondary education, in most cases, are going to earn more money than those who do not have that education.”

Amber Lewis is another former PSC student who hopes to return to school using the Last Mile College Completion Program.
She started at PSC in the fall of 2015, just months after finishing high school. She soon married and then found out she was pregnant.

“I was taking classes when I was pregnant,” Lewis said. When she went to register for another term, she went into labor.
“I was dealing with motherhood and school took a back seat,” she said. “I was adjusting and trying to find myself and dealing with post-partum depression.”

No one in her family has earned a college degree before.

“I want to come back and get the basics out of the way,” said Lewis, who has 12 credit hours remaining to earn an associate degree. “I want my daughter to know I’m striving to be a better person and mother, and I want to show her how important education is.”

Details: For information on the Last Mile to College Completion Program, call the Dean of Student Affairs at 850-484-2000.