Scholarships, small classes help lure students to state's newest university still under construction

LAKELAND, Fla. - Florida Polytechnic continues its push to recruit students to the brand new university in Polk County.

Many expected a challenge with getting students to sign up at an unaccredited university, but current enrollment figures continue to climb.

Emily Mason, a senior at First Academy-Leesburg, chose Florida Poly because of its small class sizes and focus on engineering.

She dreams of one day designing airplanes for Boeing.

"It's really cool because we're the first class and we sort of get to pave the way and shape what's going to be the next year, and it's kind of exciting," she said.

Mason is one of 460 students currently enrolled at Florida's newest university set to open this fall.

Florida Poly is the only university in the state to focus solely on STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math.

"Right after the tour, I was pretty much dead set on going," she said.

Emily's parents, Amy and Mike, think it's the perfect fit for their creative daughter with an engineering mindset.

"I can see it would be kind of a difficult to sell a school that doesn't exist, but they did a good job of it," Mike said.

Mike admits that they had questions about the accreditation process, but recruiters assured them and all families that it will gain accreditation after the first graduating class.

Once it is accredited, it will be applied retroactively to students who already graduated.

"Even back in the 60's when UCF first came about, they went through the same process, they had to apply for accreditation," explained Scott Rhodes, Executive Director of Admissions at Florida Poly.

To sweeten the pot, the university offered hefty scholarships for the entire first class: $5,000 for the first three years, $3,200 for the fourth year.

The school has since received more than 2,000 applications. They saw a big spike after they completed the admissions building on campus late last year.

"Once they're able to see the campus and actually tour and see the facility, they can tell that the facilities are going to be ready," Rhodes said.

Emily Mason said she couldn't resist the idea of small classes and hands-on learning, all inside an awe-inspiring building.

"It excites me. It doesn't real make me nervous -- just the opposite. It's something new, we get to explore," she said.

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