Polk State College sees growth in enrollment, all other colleges experience drop

Early numbers show 2.1 percent increase

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - The first week of classes at Polk State College is shaping up to be its biggest ever.

New enrollment numbers show Polk State is the only college in the 28 Florida College System to post an increase in enrollment.

The average head count at the college is around 25,000. Most of them are part-time students.

Casmore Shaw is one of the students flocking to the college to earn a degree- something the 59-year-old wanted most of his life.

"I've been around the block, so to speak. I've done many jobs and I've gotten well paid, but there was something that was there," he said.

That "something" is a degree. In a couple of years, he will get his bachelor's in management.

Ken Ross, Vice President for Academic and Student Services attributes most of the college's success to some of its new offerings.

"I think the bachelor's programs has increased out enrollment to a greater extent than I ever anticipated," he said.

Recently, Polk State added bachelor's degrees in Supervision of Management, Nursing, and Criminal Justice. The college also expects to start offering degrees in aerospace and elementary education next year.

"They can stay home, get their bachelor's degree, and then get a job afterwards. And that's the key, people want to work," Ross said.

The early figures show Polk State's enrollment increased by more than two percent this year. The other 27 colleges saw a drop in enrollment by an average of 5.9 percent.

Ross admits Polk State gained students after Governor Rick Scott decided to phase out USF Poly, located in Lakeland, and turn it into its separate university.

Students say the other key that attracted them to Polk State is the cost.

Whether it's nursing or business, students want to learn the skills they need without going deep into debt.

"It's a great value for what you get, and it's close to home," said Jordan Brandt, who's working towards his bachelor's in nursing. "It's nice to know you can get a quality education at a great price."

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