Steady but changing
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - At the end of the year, South Florida State College will be ending its occupational certificate program that trained students as drafting assistants for architectural and civil engineering firms.
Published: January 24, 2013
Published: January 24, 2013
The Drafting & Design course's demise is a reflection of today's economy, which has seen a drain of jobs associated with the construction industry, said college President Norm Stephens.
That's also the reason much fewer students are enrolling in the college's four apprenticeship programs — commercial air conditioning, electrical, electrical lineman and plumbing technology — four of the technical programs SFSC offers in the construction field.
The Educator's Preparation Institute was also discontinued because of fewer students.
The college's new bachelor's of applied science in supervision and management program, on the other hand, has 14 new students this semester, for a total of 46.
In the fall of 2014, the college's plan is to unveil two new bachelor's degree programs — in nursing and elementary education.
Enrollment in the college's allied health programs also continues to be strong, said Becky Sroda, associate dean for the college's allied health and dental education programs.
"We still have a healthy applicant pool and nursing has the most number of applicants of all our allied health programs," she said. "Applicant pools for other allied health programs — EMS, radiography and dental — are holding steady."
After the rapid increase in student enrollment a few years ago, when the economy soured, SFSC's enrollment has steadied and even declined slightly as the economy improves, said Stephens.
In 2010, Vice President for Educational and Student Services Leana Revell told Highlands Today that the college had grown 25 percent over the last three years, describing it as a "ferocious amount of growth" that was making it tougher for students to enter programs and arrange their class schedules.
That was also reflected in full-time student equivalent (FTE) figures for college credit registrations, as mentioned in the college's annual report and plan for July 2011 to June 2012.
The FTE was 1,487 in 2008-09, going up to $1,650 in 2009-10; dipping slightly to 1,603 in 2010-11; and going down further to 1,563 in 2011-12.
What the college is also seeing these days are enrollment shifts in the classes students are taking, a trend reflected at community colleges across the state. It also means that while some programs are being eliminated as a result, others are being added.
"Programs go through cycles of enrollment," Stephens said. "That is nothing new."
The state of the economy is one reason. People typically invest in education when the job market is bad.
Others are actions coming out of Tallahassee, such as residency tuition requirements and "block tuition" instituted for adult education and English as a Second Language classes, which were free earlier.
In April last year, SFSC's Institutional Effectiveness Officer Chris van der Kaay had estimated that adult education enrollment had dropped by almost 50 percent because of these reasons.
Stephens said Wednesday that while he expects adult education enrollment for the 2012 fall semester to decline, he is expecting the drop to be less steep compared to the beginning of last year. The official enrollment count for fall is expected to be released next week.
There are around 8,400 part-time and full-time students taking classes that offer credits. Enrollment in these credit programs, which embraces 11 categories from an associate degree course to dual-enrollment classes, has gone up slightly.
Freshmen Jamal Edwards and Rayvin Vick, who went to high school together in Orlando, are two of those students.
Edwards hopes to get his associate degree at SFSC and then major in criminal justice with a minor in business.
Vick is here on a softball scholarship and is doing her prerequisites to get into the nursing program.
Vick's best friend is Edwards' girlfriend, who is a sophomore at SFSC. It is through her that Vick found out about the college, contacted its softball coach and was offered a scholarship, she said.
She misses her family and Highlands County is "different" from Orlando, she conceded with a smile, but Vick likes it better than going to a bigger campus because the classes are smaller and she can get one-on-one help if she needed it.
The size of the campus and its relatively lower tuition is also what drew Katrynna Acosta to SFSC.
A 2012 Sebring High School graduate, Acosta is also getting her credits before transferring to the University of South Florida in Tampa to major in elementary education.
Getting a head start at SFSC means she doesn't get into "debt right away" from student loans.
A smaller, hometown campus is also helping her, a sheltered girl, adjust and ensure she is "more prepared for a university," she added.
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