As part of its mission to provide accessible education for the community, State College of Florida, or SCF, purchased 74 acres on Erie Road in Parrish.
“This is part of our strategic plan,” said Jamie Smith, director of communications and marketing for the college. “With all the growth planned for out there we want to be accessible to the community.”
But acquiring the land in 2017 was only the first step. The college administration now has to develop a plan for the campus.
“It’s no short order to plan and build a college campus,” Smith said. “The biggest question is what’s next and getting feedback from the community.”
Brian Thomas, a special assistant to State College of Florida President Carol F. Probstfeld, was collecting feedback from the college faculty and staff, Smith said.
Area employers also would be consulted as to what they want to see, and then Thomas will make recommendations in a report.
“The intentions are to hold community forums,” she said.
But Smith said the community does not have to wait for the forums and can offer their ideas now.
“We want the community to be partners,” she said. “Reach out to Brian and share your thoughts.
“Tell us what you would like to see,” said Smith, who has been with the communications department for eight years.
Probstfeld also said the community’s input was important.
“As we enter the next phase of planning for our SCF Parrish campus, I am excited to hear from the community and how we can partner to meet its needs,” said the college president in an email statement. “Together, we will build another open- access college campus and meet local workforce needs.”
For more than 60 years, SCF has been offering college education to residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties.
After a couple of years of holding classes in a former high school, the college, then called Manatee Junior College, moved into its own facilities on the Bradenton campus at 5840 26th St. W.
With the growth of the two counties, SCF expanded, opening a campus in Venice in 1985, the same year it changed its name to Manatee Community College, and then in 2003 the Lakewood Ranch facility was created.
And with the approval of thousands of housing units planned in Northern Manatee County, it was only natural for the SCF Board of Trustees to seek property north of the Manatee River.
A college at this location “gives us campuses at both ends of our service area,” said board Chair Rick Hager.
“This project has a long lead time for planning,” Hager said. “We’re at the very early stages.”
Hagar, who will finish his two-year term as chair in August, said the board has to decide many things in developing the Parrish campus.
“What we expect is to offer our general education program, the Associates of Arts degree foundation, and then the community input will drive what else might be out there,” he said.
That could be specialized curricula, just as the other campuses offer Signature Programs.
The Lakewood Ranch campus has a Medical Technology and Simulation Center where a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can be earned.
The campus just south of University Parkway at 7131 Professional Parkway, also offers courses in corporate and community development.
The Signature Program at the Venice campus, at 8000 S. Tamiami Trail, is the home of Gator Engineering, a collaboration program between SCF and the University of Florida where students can begin their engineering coursework at SCF and then continue toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering at UF in Gainesville.
At the main campus in Manatee County on 26th Street West, students will find an emphasis on fine and performing arts, science and manufacturing, and athletics.
“We don’t know if the Parrish campus is going to have specialized classes,” Smith said. “Do we want to be an agriculture center or maybe focus on manufacturing?
“That’s why we want community input,” she said.
One thing that Hager and Smith think will be at the new campus is a dual-enrollment program, which the college has been offering for more than 15 years, where high school students can attend SCF full time in their junior and senior years and graduate with their high school diploma and an AA degree.
The Manatee County School Board has started construction on a new high school just across the street from the SCF property, which is at 11680 Erie Road.
“With a high school right next to us, we have the ability to offer dual enrollment,” said Hager, who has been on the SCF Board of Trustees for around six years.
For more information or to offer input on the planned Parrish campus contact, Brian Thomas by email at email@example.com, or call him at 941-752-5392.
For more information about State College of Florida visit its website at www.scf.edu.