Following years of steady increases, enrollment at Pasco-Hernando Community College is starting a downward trend as roughly 8,300 students are expected to descend on campus this coming week.
According to data of enrollment prior to the start of fall semester, the number of students at the college dropped by 11.7 percent from last year — from 9,502 students in 2011 to 8,394 slated to start classes Monday.
From 2008 to 2010, enrollment had steadily climbed by 1,907 students, or 24.9 percent, from 7,646 students to 9,553.
Courtney Boettcher, marketing coordinator, said this year's enrollment numbers are preliminary, as there is still time for students to enroll and drop out.
Dr. Tim Beard, vice president of student development and enrollment management, said that following years of a steady enrollment increase, college officials knew they would eventually begin seeing a downward trend.
PHCC officials in the past have also pointed to the down economy as another reason they would eventually see a decrease in enrollment. However, others added that they hoped the opening of the Spring Hill campus in 2010 would ward off that downward shift.
"We've had a great run. From 2006-07 up until 2011 we were the fastest growing community college in the state. But realistically we knew the numbers would start going downward at some point," Beard said. "Hopefully with the new campus opening in Wesley Chapel in 2014, we'll see our numbers flattening out, if not a slight increase."
The new college site, located on Wiregrass Ranch property near State Road 56 and Mansfield Boulevard, in Wesley Chapel, is expected to draw in 1,200 full- and part-time students by that time.
With the completion of the campus, PHCC will have five full-service campus locations.
Meanwhile, Boettcher reiterated that enrollment numbers would likely fluctuate considerably next week, with numbers not being solidified until close to September.
Meanwhile, PHCC also just launched a re-designed website that officials hope will make searching for events, programs and course information easier to access.
To view the newly designed website, go to www.phcc.edu.