Small colleges cope with big growth

Enrollment is up at PBSC and IRSC

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Class is in session; however it's not just the kids heading back to school. With so much competition for good paying jobs, more adults are returning to the classroom. That has some small colleges, especially those known for less expensive tuition, dealing with explosive growth.

As more students strive for their degrees, more schools look to accommodate them. Palm Beach State College awarded its first Bachelor degrees in the spring. With more than 50-thousand students enrolled this fall, school officials say the college has seen enrollment skyrocket 40-percent in the last five years.

"What I think it means is the college has been doing a careful job of assessing the education and training needs of the community," explained Palm Beach State College President Dr. Dennis Gallon.

Indian River State College has more than doubled over 17-thousand students enrolled on its five campuses. Palm Beach State has four campuses, with plans for fifth in Western Palm Beach County. That makes it easier for students like Karen McCord who's eager to pursue the school's new Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in January.

"I heard a lot of good things about the college," she said. "I've heard a lot of students who graduate from here are able to find jobs in the field."

To keep class sizes small, approximately 25 to 30 students, Palm Beach State had to add more than two thousand new class sections over the last five years, along with 25 new full time professors and many more part time ones, with much of the expansion in areas like healthcare.

"We've been monitoring classes and adding a lot of science classes because science is where it's booming a lot," said Dr. Roger Ramsammy, the dean of academic affairs for Palm Beach State College's Lake Worth campus.

Adding classes is one thing. Adding parking spaces is another. Even with overflow parking lots, students, like Carlos Silva, plan for a lot of walking.

"You have to get here like an hour before so you can actually get into class on time or you're going to be late," he said.

Regardless of the walk, Silva is happy with the steps he's taking, saving money by continuing his education at a smaller college.
 

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