On my way home from a board meeting recently, I thought about Pasco-Hernando Community College and its unique role in our area. As a member of the District Board of Trustees, I have been honored to help govern the institution and have delighted in its successes.
The college has come a long way since its charter in 1967 by the Florida Legislature and its first home, a humble rented storefront in Dade City. The citizens and business leaders of the community lobbied hard for that first location and the ground-breaking for the original campus was a source of immense community pride.
As Pasco and Hernando counties pushed into a new season of unprecedented growth, the college grew along with the region. Now, the college is expanding all three of its campuses — in Dade City, Brooksville and New Port Richey — as well as its center in Spring Hill.
In the college's 41-year lifetime, thousands of graduates have passed through our doors and left with the education and training needed to pursue countless opportunities. Yet, it seems that PHCC is a gem that remains undiscovered among many residents.
Bright high school students intent on earning an increasingly elusive seat within Florida's university system should be aware that PHCC is a stepping-stone for placement in those institutions at the junior level. The same core courses required at the universities are available right here — the same books, the same course numbers and the same curriculum.
Community college credits, however, are offered at a fraction of the cost. University students often complain about sharing classes with hundreds of students while most PHCC classes are made up of 25 to 35 students, a range found in the classrooms of many exclusive private colleges. Additionally, our courses are taught by qualified and experienced faculty, not teaching assistants. In fact, at PHCC, your instructor probably will know your name.
Financially, our students save thousands of dollars avoiding on-campus living expenses. Bright Futures scholarships and Florida prepaid funds can be applied here as well, and the money in those programs takes students further with our more affordable price for credits. Our financial aid offices work hard to make college attainable for everyone while our foundation supports students through scholarships.
Motivated high school students can enroll in a dual-enrollment program that allows them, at no cost, to begin work on college classes while still in high school. Each year a group of ambitious high school students graduate from PHCC with an associate in arts degree — made official after they receive their high school diplomas.
Our health occupation programs, including nursing, dental and paramedic courses, are acclaimed and our law enforcement academy is renowned. Residents who are interested in finding immediate, more highly paid positions in the work force have many options for technical training here at PHCC. The community is full of professionals, our neighbors and friends, who began successful careers at our college.
Community members may take classes for personal enrichment and will find themselves at home on our campuses. Despite many years of formal training to become a doctor, I never really updated my computer skills. I solved that by taking a class at PHCC.
PHCC also offers the Encore Academy, a place where senior citizens enroll in courses for the sheer thrill of learning while enjoying a network of like-minded and active peers. The college offers cultural opportunities through the performing arts series and its art gallery exhibits.
If you have a moment, stop by one of our campuses for a visit. You may be impressed by our new buildings, surprised at our growth and awed by the beauty of our campuses. We are here to serve you. Like our motto says, we hope that you "find yourself here."
Dr. Rao Musunuru has been a member of the District Board of Trustees at Pasco-Hernando Community College since 1999. He served as the chairman of the board twice.