There’s a common misperception that because Tallahassee is the capital of the Sunshine State, state government is the No. 1 industry here.
Try as you might, you wouldn’t be able to squeeze into Doak Campbell Stadium all of the students in Tallahassee.
Between Leon County Schools, with more than 32,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through high school, two major public universities and a thriving community college, there are more than 100,000 full-time students here during any single year.
Yes, that’s a heap of a lot of students. Educating them is indeed a major industry, with thousands of men and women drawn to Tallahassee and the many jobs involved in teaching and running our schools.
The big cheese, so to speak, is Florida State University. Land-locked in the heart of the city — but constantly expanding its southwest campus just north of the airport — FSU has nearly 40,000 students and is the third-largest school in Florida’s State University System.
If you haven’t spent time on the FSU campus, you are missing one of the true highlights of Tallahassee.
The campus can be a challenge to get to because parking is limited. But if you treat yourself to a first-time visit on a Saturday or Sunday, you will quickly come to appreciate how attractive the inner campus is. Stroll on the Landis Green in front of Strozier Library, or take the Legacy Walk to see some of the university’s highlights.
Legendary football coach Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles made FSU a nationally recognized school starting in the mid 1980s, but FSU has been enjoying big-time success in the classroom of late, highlighted by three Rhodes Scholars in the past six years — and a Rhodes finalist two years ago.
Just south of FSU, on the highest of Tallahassee’s seven hills, sits Florida A&M University, also part of the State University System.
This school is blessed with a rich history and a promising future under the leadership of President James Ammons, who with skill and determination guided FAMU and its 13,000 students through the re-accreditation process. FAMU is the nation’s top producer of African Americans at the bachelor-degree level.
FAMU’s campus is also worth a visit. Stand on the steps of administration headquarters in historic Lee Hall and take in the Eternal Flame statue, with a view of Coleman Library to the west.
FAMU’s colorful and talented band, the Marching 100, continually gives the university national attention. It has provided halftime entertainment at a handful of Super Bowls, and it marched in the inauguration parade for President Obama.
Tallahassee Community College is by far the fastest-growing school in town, with almost 14,000 students expected to enroll for the fall term. A diverse institution that caters to both immediate high school graduates and adults looking to learn a trade, TCC plays a vital role that has become even more valuable in today’s struggling economy.
There’s plenty to be proud of with the county’s public school system, too. It consistently grades among the best in the state, with many of its graduates staying in Tallahassee to continue their education.