Published: Oct 07, 2010 6:07 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 07, 2010 3:07 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The down economy has an upside for higher education in Southwest Florida. Hodges University is seeing numbers soar - even launching a new $12 million dollar project to accommodate the growth.

Since opening doors to their Fort Myers campus, Hodges University's enrollment has surged.

"Over the past five years, we are just bursting at the seams with students," said Hodges Vice President of Information Technology David Rice.

The university estimates they're home to 80% more students now, compared to when they first opened shop in Fort Myers in 2005.

Now, plans are in the making to build a new three-story, 45,000 square foot building to meet their growing numbers. The building's scheduled to open in early 2012, but in the meantime, Hodges has had to come up with backup plan.

"Just to alleviate the congestion here at this campus, I've had to add an additional modular complex of nine classrooms," Rice told WINK News.

The university credits some of that growth to the plunging economy and real estate downfall in Fort Myers. A majority of their 3,000 students are adults going back to school to gain a competitive edge in a tough job market.

"Many of our constituents use that time between employment cycles to retool, to refresh their skills," Rice said.

But whether or not a recovery is on the way for job seekers, Hodges says their growth is sustainable, and they're in it for the long haul.

"There's always a need for education," Rice said.

Hodges University says enrollment in their health care classes, along with their MBA program has skyrocketed since the economy turned sour.