St. Petersburg College: They've got Pinellas covered

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click to enlarge "I would suggest to be involved in school. Become known throughout your campus, especially by your provost and other students. It makes life a lot easier and you'll get a lot more help." -  - --SPC sophomore Christina Johnson, 20, majoring in Physical Education - Alex Pickett
Alex Pickett
"I would suggest to be involved in school. Become known throughout your campus, especially by your provost and other students. It makes life a lot easier and you'll get a lot more help."

--SPC sophomore Christina Johnson, 20, majoring in Physical Education

Founded in 1927 as a small, private community college, St. Petersburg College has grown into quite the educational powerhouse. The college boasts 65,000 students — more than the University of South Florida or University of Florida — spread throughout 10 campuses in six Pinellas County cities. Although SPC can't give you the full campus experience — as a commuter school, there are no dorms on any of its campuses — students say it is anything but a cheap college option. From the small class sizes to the award-winning professors, SPC has consistently received top ratings in distance learning, technology-based degrees and nursing certifications. And for the last six years, SPC has also offered four-year degrees in a limited number of majors. With SPC's newest building under construction in downtown St. Pete, the college is poised to become an even more influential fixture in the community.

Top 5 survival tips

Don't call SPC a community college. Although SPC used to be Pinellas County's ranking community college, the school received state school status in 2001, offering four-year degrees in nursing and education. All of Florida's community colleges followed suit soon after. Now, SPC offers bachelor degrees in 11 fields.

Grab a short-term loan. If you need some extra cash to get into your classes for a semester, but don't want to take out a huge federal Stafford loan, look into SPC's Payment Plan Loan. Unlike the federal loans, these loans do not depend on your income level; you just need a co-signer and promise to pay back the full loan within 60 days. For information, talk to your financial aid counselor.

Get involved. SPC is a commuter school, and unless you join various clubs and organizations you won't get the full college experience. "If you're looking for a home here, find a club or organization and get involved actively in something that's important to you," says Chris White, a sophomore at SPC's Clearwater campus. Take his advice.

Search for textbook deals. Don't fall prey to the textbook industrial complex; there's a host of other ways to get your books than through the campus bookstore. Pinellas County has several used bookstores just waiting to save you some beer money. From Book Bank USA in Clearwater to Haslam's and Wilson's bookstores in St. Petersburg, you're sure to find that textbook. And if not, there's always the library.

The Male Outreach Center. Did you know that female college students vastly outnumber male students? It's true, brah. And while you might think this statistic bodes well for your love life, try to have some sympathy. Some educators say men are less likely to ask for help while in college and tend to drop out more often than women. But the SPC Male Outreach Center, one of the first of its kind in the nation, is trying to change that trend. At the center, volunteers offer open arms, financial aid help and tutoring for struggling male students. If you don't need their services, consider helping a brother out.

Check spcollege.edu/central/MOI for hours on various campuses.

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