MANATEE -- In line with the area's public schools, local colleges and universities welcomed students back for class on Monday.
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and New College of Florida all started classes for the 2015-16 year. Manatee and Sarasota public schools started Monday as well.
New College welcomed almost 293 incoming students on Monday, making the freshman class the largest one in the school's history.
"We had an amazing year in admissions," New College President Don O'Shea said in a statement.
The new students completed a week of orientation programs, including their first "class" -- a session titled "College Life 101" -- about New College's community standards before academic classes started. Short presentations from professors helped students prepare their schedules.
USF-SM was touting updated facilities as students returned to its campus, including a revamped Information Commons area on
the second floor of the rotunda. The space now combines a student lounge with collaborative-study areas and private-study areas. A modular biological lab was installed just last week. The lab, next to another biological lab at the campus' north end, could become operational by late October.
In the lab, workers must still hook up water and electricity, and install cabinets, tables and other equipment.
"We hope by the end of October we can start conducting experiments," said Christelle Bouchard, an assistant professor of biology.
It was smooth sailing at SCF on Monday, the first day of class.
"So far, so good," said Chris Manring, a school spokeswoman.
Enrollment numbers weren't confirmed yet, as they were waiting out the add/drop enrollment for the number of new students.
Enrollment at the collegiate school, which is for high school students but also counts as dual enrollment with SCF, has continued to climb, Manring said. Last year, 50 students graduated from the collegiate school.
On Monday, 98 students started the senior class there.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.