International College to Open Tech Center in Fort Myers

International College is spending about $250,000 for renovations and computer equipment to convert 6,000 square feet of empty space on the ground floor of Fort Myers’ Renaissance Center on College Parkway into the school’s new computer technology center.

The center, with 80 computer workstations, includes a computer lab, three computer classrooms and two other classrooms designed specifically for instruction in networking and hardware and operating systems. Faculty offices and a student lounge are also part of the center.

The center will be officially called International College’s Advancing Center for Technology and is scheduled to be completed before September 10, the first day of classes for the College’s fall 2001 academic term.

Prior to International College moving in, the space was occupied since 1991 by restaurants. The Renaissance Sports Bar, the last eatery in the location, left in November 2000. International College signed a lease agreement for the space in January and construction and remodeling for the center began in May.

With the leasing of new space, International College now occupies 30,235 square feet in the Renaissance Center with classrooms, a library, offices and conference rooms. The Renaissance, owned by the Florida Development Company, has about 69,000 square feet. International College has been in the Renaissance Center since the college was expanded to Fort Myers in 1992 and originally had three classrooms there with 32 enrolled students. The college now has 19 classrooms in the facility and 490 students enrolled in Fort Myers. International College’s total enrollment at five sites is 1,117.

Although the center will be used by students in each of the College’s 12 degree programs, the center will be used primarily by the College’s computer information technology majors.

"The space becoming available to us came at a perfect time," said David Rice, chair of International College’s computer information technology program. "Our computer program now has a centralized location within the building and is adequate to handle our growing numbers of students."

In January 1998, International’s total enrollment in computers was 96 students. Currently, 325 are enrolled and Rice projects 400 starting in 2002. Computer majors now surpass business management majors as International College’s largest program.

"I feel International College is now getting the reputation as a computer technology school in addition to its strong business programs," said Rice, former technology director at Fort Myers’ Bishop Verot High School.

Rice, who began as program chair at International College in 1999, said he believes the College’s incorporation of certification coursework from computer products vendors is fueling the growth.

International College is an authorized training center for both Microsoft and Cisco Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of networking equipment International College students can study for certifications to become a Cisco network associate and a Microsoft Certified System Engineer. The College also offers certification coursework from other computer companies including training to become a certified webmaster, software programmer and database administrator

Rice said he knows of few colleges similar to International that have embedded certification programs within a college degree program The College offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in computer information technology.

"The computer industry demands both a college degree and certifications," Rice said. "Traditionally, you go to one place for your college degree and another for your certification. We have put it under one umbrella and students like that because it saves both time and money. To put it in retail language, what we have done is one-stop shopping or offering a two-for-one package."

Rice said he believes the concept is working because the majority of new computer students enrolling at International are referred to the school from current students or graduates.

"Word-of-mouth has been our strongest advertising," Rice said.

International College, accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, offers associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in 12 fields of study. Class schedules, accelerated programs and academic delivery methods are designed for the working adult. The average student age is 32. Classes are offered at night,during the day, on weekends and online.
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