Community leaders knew that the area had a growing gap in the workforce pipeline: To meet the workforce needs in the coming decades, more of the adults who live here are going to need college degrees and industry certifications.

Lots of organizations were addressing the issue, but there was no unified effort.

Enter the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and a dozen other corporate, education, government and nonprofit partners to form the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network.

Its goal: For 60% of working age adults in the Tampa Bay area to have a degree or high-quality certificate by 2025.


  • Because individuals want the best opportunities for their families and we all benefit when our workforce is stronger.
  • Many of the fastest growing jobs require education beyond high school.
  • Tampa Bay is behind other communities in this area. The Regional Competitiveness Report — a joint effort of the Community Foundation, the Tampa Bay Partnership and United Way Suncoast – found Tampa Bay ranked 19th or 20th out of 20 U.S. markets in earning degrees.

LEAP’s priorities

Helping people get the education they want, and the community get the talent it needs by:

  • Increasing opportunities for education and training through easier access to grants, scholarships and tuition reimbursement.
  • Building stronger business and education partnerships to develop more local talent for local jobs.
  • Supporting clear pathways and shorter, less costly time to completion of certificates and degrees.

Progress highlights

  • In late 2017, Pinellas joined LEAP, ensuring the network is truly a regional effort.
  • LEAP Tampa Bay, HCC and USF, along with generous partners USAB Foundation & Helios Education Foundation, have established a scholarship for low-income students in FUSE, the seamless transfer to USF program.
  • Working with school district partners, LEAP volunteers helped increase the number of completed FAFSA student financial aid applications, increasing local student grants by an estimated $3 million in 2017.

As the backbone organization of LEAP, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay reinforces its mission to build a better community through creative philanthropy, leadership and vision.

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Michael Malcolm was sick for much of his childhood. Because he spend so much time with doctors and nurses, he was motivated to become a pediatrician.

The native of Jamaica started on that path as a biomedical sciences student at Hillsborough Community College in the spring of 2016.

During Michael’s first semester, HCC advisors invited into a new program that would make his path easier. FUSE showed him exactly what classes to take to reach his goal and gave him a seamless way to enter the Biomedical Sciences program at the University of South Florida from HCC.

“I never felt alone throughout the entire process,” Michael said. “

Two years later, he graduated from HCC, entered USF and became the first recipient of a FUSE Scholarship, which will help offset the cost of his degree.

“Knowing I was guaranteed admission into the University of South Florida reassured me that the choices I made leading up to this moment were the right ones, and I will become a pediatrician.”