Dr. Bill Law gave St. Petersburg College trustees a preview of his first budget as the school's new president on Tuesday and unveiled several major initiatives, including one intended to improve the college experience for students and another he said will help unemployed people find work.
With state support of colleges on the wane, Law also announced he will recommend a tuition hike for the budget year that starts July 1, but will phase it in to lessen the hardship on students.
The college's new "Learn to Earn" program, which kicks off Monday, will provide short, certificate-based courses in skills that area employers have told the college are lacking in the local workforce.
The classes will be less expensive than for-credit SPC courses, can be started at any time of the year and can be completed quickly — some in just a few hours and for as little as $19.
The courses offered fall under five broad headings: administrative tools (such as Microsoft Word and keyboarding); career preparation (resume writing, interviewing skills); health and fitness professions (personal trainer, orthotic fitter); public safety and security (private investigation, public safety technician); and today's technology (Adobe, computer-aided drafting).
"We have 54,000 people out of work in Pinellas County," Law said. "We must change the dialogue from credit-based to getting people back to work."
The college has shopped the idea at area job fairs and has launched an advertising campaign in newspapers, radio and online. Details about the new courses can be found at www.spcollege.edu/learntoearn.
For those coming to SPC for regular college classes, Law is making changes that he said will give them a more typical college experience. The changes range from promoting the formation of more campus clubs and bringing back the college newspaper to requiring new students to attend an on-campus orientation like those offered at other four-year colleges.
The college will encourage more learning outside the classroom, too, through participation in the Model United Nations, foreign travel and internships that will boost students' resumes.
Law also is determined to solve two problems that have plagued SPC students: a laborious and confusing online registration system, and classes getting canceled when too few students show up.
Starting this fall, the advertised class schedule will be guaranteed, Law said. If only a few students sign up, the class still will continue as planned. New navigational enhancements are expected to make online registration easier, too.
Law, who has been college president for nine months, will unveil his proposed $147 million budget at the May board of trustees meeting. On Tuesday, he announced the budget will include a 3 percent base salary increase for employees and a tuition hike of about 3 percent in August, followed by another 3 percent in January 2012.
Law said the tuition increase is justified by a number of changes being instituted at SPC, including upgrades in technology on the school's campuses, an improvement in the ratio of full-time faculty to adjunct faculty, and a big increase in the number of services SPC will offer to help students succeed at college work.
But Law also intends to work to get more grant money for SPC. He said the college has not aggressively sought grants in recent years.
Diane Steinle can be reached at (727) 445-4152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.