Consortium of regional colleges designed to broaden educational opportunities and promote entrepreneurialship

With financial support from area foundations, C4 is expected to make Sarasota and Manatee counties an educational hub, college leaders say

The Ringling College of Art + Design is in north Sarasota. Image courtesy Ringling College
The Ringling College of Art + Design is in north Sarasota. Image courtesy Ringling College

Thanks to the support of three local foundations, a regional collaboration among colleges will give students broader educational opportunities, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) have announced.

The nonprofits are partnering to support C4 (Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast), a news release says.

Formed almost two years ago with the help of GCCF, the release explains, C4 includes New College of Florida, the Ringling College of Art + Design, State College of Florida, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Florida State University/The Ringling and Eckerd College.

In slightly more than two years, C4 has piloted cross-registration, which lets students take courses on a space-available basis at a consortium institution for credit at their home college, the release explains. Further, the colleges shared state-of-the-art emergency management training this summer to prepare for natural disasters and potential new threats.

“Collaboration among regional higher education institutions and local foundations allows the consortium to take on new initiatives that will expand and improve the quality of life and educational landscape here — further positioning Manatee-Sarasota as a preferred college and university community,” said Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art + Design, in the release.

New College bridge with sign Jan 9 2014 smallC4’s goal “is to make Manatee-Sarasota an educational hub that responds to the local market and creates competitive opportunities for students and businesses while attracting entrepreneurs, individual and corporate supporters, and jobs to the region,” the release adds.

“When the collective strength of these institutions’ faculty, programs and leadership is assembled and leveraged, our region has the resources of a major research university,” said Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of GCCF, in the release. “This consortium has developed plans that we think can attract more quality students, provide a stronger workforce and help diversify our economy. This can be a real economic development ‘calling card’ for our region.”

“The potential of innovation through C4 is unmatched by any other region in the Southeastern United States,” Teri A. Hansen, president and CEO of the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, pointed out in the release. “Through the collaboration, we are able to think creatively and strategically about the academic resources of each institution and work together to offer the best education opportunity for the students.”

Given that nearly 20,000 students will return to local campuses this month, “That’s a significant number [who] can benefit from our collaborative work,” noted Carol Probstfeld, president of State College of Florida, in the release.

Laurey T. Stryker, former president of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, has been hired to coordinate and expedite the work of C4, the release adds, thanks to the foundations’ funding support.