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SCF president to push for growth, more programs

BRADENTON — If college enrollment and new programs were a poker hand, Lars Hafner would probably say he has a full house.

Enrollment at State College of Florida Sarasota-Manatee took 52 years to get to 10,000, and is expected to hit 12,000 this fall, said Hafner, now in his 14th month as president of SCF.

Thursday, he told members of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce that enrollment could double to 20,000 within 10 years.

The college is growing by “leaps and bounds,” he said, and noted that applications for the recently approved bachelor’s degree in nursing, the college’s first four-year degree program, have exceeded expectations. The bachelor’s in nursing degree program is expected to start classes in January.

But that’s just scratching the surface, he said, adding that the college already has filed its intent with the state to start six more bachelor’s programs.

Those new bachelor’s programs include energy technology, health services, public safety, technology management, early childhood education and exceptional student education.

Driving the new programs is demand from the work force, Hafner said.

He asserted that there is no duplication of those programs in this area.

However, Arthur Guilford, vice chancellor of University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, when told of the comment Thursday night, disagreed.

“I am certainly fine with him developing four-year degree programs,” Guilford said.

But five of the six new bachelor’s programs at SCF “do duplicate programs we already offer here,” Guilford said.

Areas where SCF could offer bachelor’s programs that are otherwise not offered locally are in science, math and the arts, Guilford said.

At Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce meeting, Bruce Willingham of Landmark Bank asked if some of SCF’s rapid growth has been spurred by the recession.

Hafner agreed that it had, and once the economy improves, some potential students might turn instead to the workplace.

The new baccalaureate programs could help keep enrollment strong as those have been identified as needs by local business leaders, Hafner said.

SCF is still, first and foremost, a community college, able to offer courses costing less than universities, he said.

Asked about the addition of student dormitories at SCF, Hafner said there are no immediate plans for housing, but it is an option that SCF will keep open.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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