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Enthusiasm for PHCC's security classes dissipates

PHCC's security guard program, which proved popular last fall, cancels classes when few enroll.

By KENT FISCHER, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 9, 2002


PHCC's security guard program, which proved popular last fall, cancels classes when few enroll.

DADE CITY -- Pasco-Hernando Community College seemed to have hit upon a good thing in the weeks and months after last September's terrorist attacks. Fears over homeland security helped the college's new security guard program become one of its most popular, practically overnight.

A year later, the course is on hiatus, the classes canceled for a lack of enrollment.

The program still exists, and the college will start up classes again, but only if more than 12 students enroll. Right now, they can't even get that.

"We can't seem to generate much interest right now," said Maryjo Spencer, the instructional coordinator for the college's law enforcement program.

In the days immediately after Sept. 11, analysts predicted good things for companies dealing in security, protection and law enforcement.

And so the college, in conjunction with a state program that aimed to get unemployed workers back on the job, started up two security guard programs.

One was for unarmed guards, the other for those who wanted work as armed guards.

The new programs immediately filled up and were so popular that the college ran multiple classes, back-to-back. Within weeks, 70 students had graduated, and more classes were scheduled for the second half of the academic year.

But by then, interest in the field apparently had waned.

"We canceled them," Spencer said of the winter classes. Courses scheduled for last spring were put on hold, too.

One reason could be a lack of advertising. The attacks contributed to an economic downturn last fall, and, in response, the state began cutting budgets.

Education took a hit, forcing PHCC to scale back its spending on advertising.

"I think the desire is still out there, and if we could do some more advertising, we could probably get the classes filled," said college spokeswoman Lynn Rothman-Venus.

"It's just not being promoted right now to any great degree."

That could change, Spencer said. Some new ads are planned, as are some fliers and other promotional materials.

"We need to generate some traffic," she said.

-- Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is kfischer@sptimes.com.

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