The University of Central Florida generates headlines as metro Orlando's leading institute of higher learning and the nation's second-largest university, but 44-year-old Valencia College is asserting itself as much more than a feeder school for UCF. The college is a finalist in a $1-million prize awarded by the Aspen Institute to recognize the nation's most innovative and effective community colleges. More about Valencia:
> About 95% of 445 full-time instructors have a master's or doctoral degree.
> The school employs more than 2,800 full- and part-time staff.
Professor Barry Bunn's Intro to Business class
> Valencia Foundation's $49 million-plus endowment is the largest of any community college in the nation.
> The school's annual operating budget is about $161 million.
> The college recently began work on its fifth campus, at Lake Nona's "medical city." Valencia's first building, a $22-million, three-story facility, is scheduled to open in August. The campus will be able to accommodate 5,000 students.
Rendering of Valencia's $22-million Lake Nona building
> During the 2010 school year, Valencia awarded 6,303 associate degrees, including 2,650 to minority students.
> Valencia College will begin offering four-year degrees this fall in fields such as radiology, imaging science, electrical and computer engineering.
> Annual full-time equivalent enrollment has grown to more than 30,000 — 43,000 including part-timers.
> More than 15% of full-time students are over age 30.
> 89% of AA-degree recipients from Valencia later enroll at UCF for their continuing education.
> Retired Walt Disney World President Al Weiss
> Digital artist Howard Muzika, who created special effects for the movie Titanic
> Former Orange County chairman and state Sen. Rich Crotty
> Former state Rep. Dick Batchelor
> Movie producer Gregg Hale and production designer Ben Rock, two of the creators of the Blair Witch Project
> NFL All Pro place kicker Olindo Mare
From left to right, Al Weiss, Gregg Hale and Olindo Mare