A growth market in Bradenton: colleges

MANATEE — President Barack Obama wants to invest some $12 billion in community colleges with the aim of seeing an additional 5 million students graduate by 2020.

This goal comes while many schools are already bursting at the seams with droves of displaced workers hit by the recession and competing with traditional students seeking an education bargain.

It is a familiar scenario for Manatee’s local community college and other local schools facing a tidal wave of new students.

State College of Florida celebrated record growth this fall, reaching a new high in enrollment with 12,000 students.

President Lars A. Hafner has said the community college is the second fastest-growing among 28 in the state.

SCF is employing a variety of strategies to handle the crowd, said Jessica Klipa, a spokeswoman for the college.

For example, it has been able to accommodate new students, while maintaining classroom size caps, by hiring 14 full-time faculty members for the fall term, she said.

The college also has asked faculty members to teach extra classes and also employs adjunct professors, she added.

In order to lessen pressure on the campuses, SCF has beefed up its online e-Campus offerings, Klipa said. The associate in arts degree is now available online and more students are signing up, she said.

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