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Economy helping SCF grow

MANATEE — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, grew by an unprecedented 14 percent over the previous year, the first time the college has recorded enrollment gains of such magnitude in one year.

“Our college’s spectacular progress is great news not just for SCF, but also for our region because a well-educated workforce will help fuel our community’s economic base,” said SCF President Dr. Lars A. Hafner.

SCF was the second fastest-growing college among 28 in the Florida College System for the 2008-09 academic year, according to a recent report from the Florida Department of Education.

The college added 2,926 students over the last academic year, placing fifth in the system, close behind major metropolitan area colleges including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Valencia.

Hafner attributed the growth to excitement about the college’s evolving mission.

Its broader opportunities, especially new and proposed bachelor degree offerings, appeal to students who realize they can study here and still earn a quality education, Hafner said.

“Our cost-effective workforce degree programs give taxpayers and students the best bang for the buck,” Hafner said. “Students like what they see at SCF — expanded and relevant degree programs, new technology and buildings, convenient locations, affordable cost, and the same welcoming environment they’ve always had here.”

While associate degree programs remain the college’s focus, the first bachelor’s program — the bachelor of science in nursing degree — starts in January.

More proposed workforce baccalaureate programs include energy technology, health services administration, public safety administration, technology management, exceptional student education and early childhood education.

Recognizing that the economic downturn has played a part in spurring enrollment growth, Hafner said colleges historically have been the place where people turn to retool for a changing job market.

“A longstanding reputation for access with quality, coupled with a ‘best buy’ status for meeting community workforce needs, makes SCF a first-choice destination,” Hafner said.

The enrollment surge is continuing, college officials note, pointing to a 17 percent increase this summer over the previous summer that accounted for an additional 1,000 students.

Early estimates for fall term indicate a double-digit increase that will take enrollment to a new high of 12,000 or more students for the semester.