Life is good on the sprawling 80-acre Tarpon Springs Campus of St. Petersburg College as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
The number of students attending the rolling campus overlooking Klosterman Road has grown steadily over the last three years.
In 2010 the number of students is expected to top 5,800 and by 2011 that number is predicted to reach 6,000, said Conferlete Carney, the campus provost. The number of students attending the Tarpon Springs Campus rose 17 percent at the height of the recession in 2008, 10.7 percent in 2009 and 7.9 percent in 2010.
"It took 40 years for the Tarpon Campus to grow to 5,000 students, and in just three years it will have 6,000," Carney said.
The high unemployment and slow hiring the recession caused prompted people to seek different careers or get training to find better jobs. Many others are returning to college to get the training needed to hold second jobs, said Tina O'Daniels, associate provost.
People, especially those in the 22 to 35 age range, are looking to change careers or better their standings in the workforce, Carney said.
Many associate degrees and certificates programs in areas ranging from business to education, health sciences to computer technology and the arts are offered on the campus.
The local campus has come along way since 1970, when classes began on the second floor of an old bank building on Hibiscus Street. It then moved to the building that is home of the Boys and Girls Club. In 1975 officials of what was then St. Petersburg Junior College moved the Tarpon Campus to the Klosterman Road site.
The college added two years and dropped "Junior" from its name in 2001. St. Petersburg College now has nine campuses and education centers dotting the Pinellas County peninsula.
The SPC Tarpon Campus now serves residents from all around North Pinellas and West and Central Pasco. SPC officials are quick to note, however, they are not trying to poach potential students from Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Even in these times of recession, financial aid is still being offered to students who qualify, Carney noted. If someone has the desire to attend college they should come to the campus and talk to a counselor, he said.
To meet the need for more classroom and laboratory space, a two-story, 39,000-square-foot addition is being added to the campus' College of Education, Carney said. It will add classrooms and two laboratories by 2011.
As part of the 40th anniversary celebration, Tarpon Campus students will be able to participate in several Hellenic-themed events.
In addition, the campus will mark the 175th birthday of Mark Twain at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, with a performance in the auditorium of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art by Twain impersonator Ned Johnson and the Mark Twain Players.