University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt joined several Florida College System presidents and state education leaders Thursday in celebrating a longstanding partnership that benefits tens of thousands of students annually.

The educators commemorated the state’s investment in 2+2 Pathways to Success, a program that provides opportunities for students who complete their AA degrees at a Florida community or state college to be admitted to a state university.

More than 30 percent of the state’s students who earn associate’s degrees and transfer to a public, state university in Florida choose UCF. Nearly 5,600 of UCF’s 5,900 new transfer students last fall came from a Florida state college or community college.

“Expanding access to the life-changing opportunities of higher education is a priority for UCF, even during tough economic times,” Hitt said.  “We strive to provide a smooth transition between institutions so that students may earn their degrees in a convenient and affordable way.”

A total of $2.5 million will be divided among eight State University System institutions, and UCF will receive more than $1.2 million of that amount. Another $2.5 million will be awarded to 18 institutions that are part of The Florida College System.

Hitt accepted a ceremonial check from The Florida College System Chancellor Will Holcombe at the beginning of the university’s Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.

State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, joined Holcombe and praised the 2+2 partnership as “the model we should have everywhere in the country.”

Joining Hitt and Lynn were the following representatives from UCF’s partners in The Florida College System: President James A. Drake of Brevard Community College, Acting President Frank Lombardo of Daytona State College, President Charles R. Mojock of Lake-Sumter Community College, President E. Ann McGee of Seminole State College and Vice President of Student Affairs Joyce Romano of Valencia College. The College of Central Florida is also one of UCF’s partner institutions.

“The purpose of the 2+2 Pathways to Success program provides a geographically accessible and economical way for students to attend their university of choice on a campus of their local Florida College,” Holcombe said. “The collaboration between our colleges and their university partners offers these trend-setting programs to benefit the many cost-conscious students who need to stay close to home for a variety of reasons. The programs are also less costly to the state of Florida at a time when dollars are scarce at our own colleges and universities.”

While UCF will receive the largest amount among the 11 state universities of this type of funding, Broward College holds that distinction among state and community colleges in the 28-institution Florida College System. Symbolic of the 2+2 partnership, while Chancellor Holcombe presented a check to UCF, conversely, Chancellor Frank T. Brogan of the State University System of Florida will present a check to the Broward College Board of Trustees in June.

“The 2+2 Pathways to Success partnership between the state universities and the state and community colleges has long been regarded by other states as a national model that many of them have since replicated in order to address bachelor’s degree attainment and to increase graduation rates,” Brogan said. “The partnership, funded by the Legislature, is assuredly one of the success stories of Florida public higher education, and therefore provides superb return on investment as well as preparing us with a better-educated workforce.”

According to Brogan, more than 31,000 of the State University System’s 41,000 new transfer students last year came from The Florida College System. In addition, 77 percent of the State University System’s 41,000 transfer students last year came from The Florida College System.

UCF has 10 regional campuses that deliver 21 bachelor’s degree programs, 16 minors and six graduate programs to more than 12,000 students.