1. Archive

USF sets record for enrollment

The University of South Florida, already the 18th largest university in the country, has set another enrollment record.

A headcount at the end of final registration showed 36,058 students, an increase of more than 1,200 students since last fall.

The University of Florida in Gainesville, the only university in the southeastern United States larger than USF, had more than 38,000 students last year but has not published this year's figures yet.

Slightly more than half of USF's students are part-time, meaning they take fewer than 12 hours a semester. That's normal for an urban university like USF. But this is only the second year in which part-timers actually have outnumbered full-time students.

The number of minority students also continues to rise. Slightly more than 20 percent classify themselves as Hispanic, Black, Asian or American Indian, up from about 19 percent last year.

Half of USF's students are older than 25. The average age, skewed slightly by older students, is 29.

Almost all of them _ nearly 99 percent _ come from within Florida.

And as usual, the women outnumber the men: 20,758 to 15,300.


Casino connection

Supporters of bringing casino gambling to Florida said Tuesday that Tampa should drop _ or at least delay _ plans to finance a 905-room convention hotel near downtown.

The hotel is headed for a yes-or-no City Council vote Thursday, but Pat Roberts, chairman of Proposition for Limited Casinos, said casino gambling would make city support for a hotel unnecessary.

As proposed, the city would guarantee repayment of about $141-million in bonds for the hotel, which would be built next to the Tampa Convention Center.

Roberts, however, predicted voters will pass Amendment 8, which would authorize one new casino for Hillsborough County as well as three new casinos at Hillsborough's existing parimutuel facilities.

If the casino amendment passed, he said, private developers likely would target downtown Tampa for a privately financed casino and hotel bigger than the city's project. He said many casino and hotel companies have shown interest in Tampa, but none has identified where a hotel would go.

Waiting for a casino hotel "may slow (the process) down six months or a year," Roberts said, "but that way the taxpayers would have a free hotel paid for by industry."

Officials with the city and the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association disputed Roberts' claim.

"I think they're in the business of trying to mislead the public," said Mayor Sandy Freedman, who doubts the amendment will pass.

Even if it does pass, Freedman noted, there's no guarantee that a new casino hotel would go anywhere near the Tampa Convention Center.

While casino supporters noted that Las Vegas has a huge convention industry, opponents responded that convention business has dropped since gambling came to Reno.

"If casinos are such a great deal for the tourism industry, why isn't the tourism industry screaming to have them?" convention association executive director Jim Clark said.

Most likely, nothing will come of Limited Casinos' request anyway. A majority of City Council members said Tuesday that they do not consider the chances of casinos coming to Hillsborough to have anything to do with their consideration of the hotel project.


United Way falling short

Contributions to the United Way of Hillsborough County are up about 10 percent this year, but the agency says that still isn't enough.

United Way officials say they may not be able to meet the needs of its member agencies adequately if they can't make up a predicted $600,000 budget shortfall with a new influx of pledges in the next few weeks.

"We're at the point where we have 24 days left to get people into the campaign," said United Way fund-raising chairman George W. Koehn, chief executive of Sun Bank of Tampa. "For the last three years our giving has been stagnant, at about $10-million. But the needs of the community have grown rapidly, and we need to raise significantly more than in the past."

Koehn announced Tuesday that United Way contributions are predicted to total $11.4-million when its current campaign concludes Nov. 18. The 1994 fund-raising goal is $12-million.

The 11th-hour push to close the gap targets individuals and small businesses that may not be fully aware of United Way's health and human service programs. "Most of the larger companies already have internal campaigns that support us," Koehn said. "We want to reach people who have not heard our story."

Sixty percent of any new money raised would go toward ongoing services United Way already provides through its 90-plus programs in 44 local agencies. About 210,000 people benefit from these services each year directly or indirectly, United Way officials say.

An additional 30 percent of any new money would be applied to United Way's community response fund, which addresses crime prevention and intervention. The remaining 10 percent of any new money will go toward grants to neighborhoods to fight crime.

"Last month, 43 clients were turned away for lack of space," said Sherry Valle of The Spring, a county shelter for battered women and a United Way agency. "Domestic homicide has tripled in Hillsborough County since last year. The Spring is full. We need to expand. We really depend on the United Way funding."

To make a pledge to United Way of Hillsborough County, call 274-0900.