Students jostle off to classes
By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
Holly Komula had a little trouble finding her classes at the University of South Florida on Monday.
And she's not even a freshmen.
Komula, a 19-year-old sophomore, only bothered to familiarize herself with the few buildings she needed last year. That left her a bit overwhelmed when the 800-acre campus opened Monday.
"The second year is just as confusing as the first," said Komula, as she took a break on a campus bench. "And it's a lot more crowded."
Thousands of students across Florida began classes Monday as most of the state's 11 public universities started the new school year with record enrollment projections.
That was evident at campuses across the state: Buying supplies at bookstores was a major investment in time, as well as money. Students had to allow extra time to hunt for parking spaces. Classes filled up quickly, some with hundreds of students.
"It's crazy," said Michael Desamours, a 23-year-old USF junior who avoided buying books because of the long lines but still found time to watch the pretty girls walk by. "But the first day of school is one of the funnest things. It's about the atmosphere."
The crowds are nothing new at Florida universities, which have long had more students than they can accommodate. Each fall brings record enrollment.
School officials attribute the growth to Bright Futures, the popular scholarships that pay a majority of most students tuition. This year, the economic downturn has further flooded Florida universities as some people choose to avoid the job market.
"It's overflowing everywhere," said Terry Keefer, Artcarved's supervisor of Florida class ring sales as he camped out at USF on Monday. "It does seem like there are more students than usual."
The University of Florida has more than 46,000 students this fall -- making it by far the largest school in the state and one of the largest in the nation.
The University of Central Florida in Orlando probably will displace USF as the state's second-largest university. Both expect increases: UCF with 39,000 students; USF with 38,500. Florida State University expects to see 36,000 students, a slight increase.
USF sophomore Melinda Gonzalez, 19, attended sociology class Monday morning in the nearby University Mall movie theater. She wasn't complaining, though, except that she couldn't find her class at first because the mall wasn't on the campus map.
An enrollment boom isn't the only change facing Florida universities this fall.
They are being run by new boards of trustees instead of a statewide board. That could change at the polls Nov. 5 when voters decide whether to restore a version of the old Board of Regents.
While university presidents and boards prepare to oppose the constitutional amendment, students aren't concerned.
Instead, students were preoccupied with finding their classes, catching the bus, looking for maps and deciding what student organizations to join.
"I'm just trying to get back into the whole routine," said Christine Beleh, a 22-year-old USF senior from Orlando who spent the afternoon passing out fliers advertising a skating party.
At USF, reporters still were asking questions about Sami Al-Arian, the professor the school sued last week over suspected ties to terrorism. But students were mostly oblivious.
"The students I've talked to are tired of hearing about it," said Dave Mincberg, vice president of the USF Student Government Association. "I understand the importance of this issue, but we are ready to focus on other things. ... It's a new day at our university."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times
local news desks