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Celebrating 45 years, PHSC has become a community treasure

By Dr. Rao Musunuru, Guest Columnist

"A historic past, a vibrant present and an innovative future."

That is what comes to mind as I think of Pasco-Hernando State College's 45th anniversary during the 2017-2018 academic year.

With a beginning so humble that the college's first classes met in church recreation halls and empty storefronts, there is much to celebrate.

PHSC founders were visionaries with a clear-cut objective worth fighting for, acutely aware that there could be no goal more noble or valuable than establishing a new college in our largely rural, 1,200-square-mile, two-county district in desperate need of access to higher education and practical job skills training.

The college's founders would marvel at the more than 500 faculty members and staffers who now serve 15,000-plus students at five full-service campuses. Who anticipated that PHSC would transition from a community college to a state college offering baccalaureate degrees and more than 70 workforce training programs? Who imagined that PHSC students and staffers continue to receive many state and national recognitions in so many fields? Who dreamed that our 45,000 alumni would fuel an economic powerhouse generating up to $240 million annually to the region's economy, according to a 2013 study by Economic Modeling Specialists.

It hasn't been an easy path. There were many conflicts and controversies along the way, starting with the location of the first permanent campus. Progress demands collaboration, concession and communication. Over the decades, as time revealed, many correct choices were made, and many correct solutions were found, to be able to provide an affordable and innovative higher education to the local community.

PHSC, as a public education institution, has an open-door admission policy. It costs a lot of money to run a college, especially if there are unfunded mandates from the government. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: "The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize." And President John F. Kennedy agreed: "Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource."

PHSC houses an excellent and effective financial aid department. It guides students to obtain assistance through grants, scholarships, loans and many other sources. PHSC also has a robust foundation that provides student scholarships.

The cost of instruction is 19 percent lower for a PHSC student than for students at national peer colleges. A reputable publication company, WalletHub, recognized PHSC as the No. 1 college in the nation (out of 821 colleges) for giving students the highest return on education investment. Also, the college's graduation rate is 8 percent higher than the national peer group.

A college that welcomes and serves nearly every student demographic is indeed a community resource to be treasured. The dual-enrollment program offers college-level courses to eligible high school students at no cost; certificate programs provide intensive training for immediate workforce entry; associate in science degrees allow graduates to earn salaries competitive with those received by graduates with four-year degrees; AA degrees provide students with a seamless transfer to an institution within Florida's state university system; bachelor's degrees provide residents convenient access to four-year programs; and the Encore Academy serves elder students seeking midlife career training or personal enrichment.

Students of all ages and backgrounds enjoy and excel in leadership opportunities, intercollegiate sports, intramural activities and many clubs and organizations. PHSC even houses an art gallery, a performing arts center and a subsidized child care center on its West Campus.

PHSC is always adding new, innovative courses like aviation, cybersecurity and digital design to meet the future demands. The community is at the heart of everything the college does.

PHSC has five beautiful campuses spread among Pasco and Hernando counties.

"Providing affordable top-notch higher education in a safe environment" is our goal.

Your job: "Find yourself here."

It is fall enrollment time.

Imagine. Believe. Achieve.

Dr. Rao Musunuru, a local cardiologist, has been a member of the Pasco-Hernando State College board of trustees since 1999. He is the current chairman of the board, a post he has held three previous times.