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Enrollment increase follows renovations

Pasco-Hernando Community College's north campus students flock to upgraded programs.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- Like hundreds of other students, Shyla Karas is taking full advantage of the multimillion-dollar improvements at Pasco-Hernando Community College's north campus.

Last year, the Brooksville campus completed $3.5-million in renovations, including upgrades to classrooms, better equipment and new roofs.

"Things go a lot smoother now," said Karas, 21. "The new equipment helps us out a lot."

Karas, who is focusing her studies in business education, hopes to become a chef and open her own restaurant, and she says that will require up-to-date computer skills.

"I have an advantage over the people who took classes a while ago," said Karas, flipping through a textbook on Microsoft Word. "I know more about computers than I ever thought I could."

Based on full-time equivalency, enrollment at PHCC is up 11.8 percent this term and 21 percent for the year, with about 1,900 students enrolled at the Brooksville campus, said north campus provost Burt Harres.

"Certainly, when we look at the increase (in enrollment), the programs that have the most draw are health, business and education," he said.

Along with renovations came new equipment for the nursing labs and computer classrooms, including six nursing beds and state-of-the-art software.

"We are able to simulate what students would see if they were in a real hospital," Harres said of the nursing facility, which comes complete with mannequin "patients." "The idea is that when they get to a hospital, they already have some experience with the equipment in the clinical setting."

Harres said the goal with computer classrooms was to rotate hardware every three years so students are always working with the same type of equipment they would use in the work force.

"It does (students) no service to provide training on software that is outdated," he said.

Two years ago, construction at the Brooksville campus was postponed when the Sarasota construction company handling the project went out of business after the first phase of the project.

Though the school lost no money, finding another contractor took time.

The project included upgrades to the bookstore, the student services building, science labs and a multipurpose area used for classroom space and large events. Also, renovated areas have new furniture and equipment and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During construction, students made do with unusual classrooms -- some portable and others improvised. In the school's gymnasium, basketball hoops were folded away, and temporary walls sectioned the space into offices and classrooms with plastic chairs, long folding tables and rolling chalkboards.

The only problem now, Karas said, is competing for slots in the more popular classes. Required math and English courses were the first to fill up.

"'I just barely made it into my classes," said Karas, who, like 15 percent of the campus population, takes her classes in the business finance-related areas. "You have to get in way early to get classes."

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