Booming Business in a Dead Economy
By Michael Finch
The business of death is booming.
In the past year, the W. L. Philbrick School of Funeral Service Education at North Campus has experienced a 12 percent increase in declared funeral service education majors.
The school’s enrollment has nearly tripled since fall 2007 when 86 students were enrolled. This fall, 250 students were in the program, according to Dr. Heather Belmont, the chairperson for the School of Funeral Service Education.
“It is clearly tied to the economy, I think students are seeking areas that are not affected by the economy,” Belmont said. “You know what they say, the only two things in life you can’t avoid are taxes and death.”
The North Campus’ School of Funeral Service Education is the oldest program of its kind in Florida, and one of only 52 in the United States.
The program’s associate’s in science degree serves many of South Florida’s funeral homes. Graduates of the degree program have several career options such as a funeral director or an embalmer.
“In the past I had around 20 to 22 students in a class, now I have 30 to 35 students,” said Eric Maspons, an adjunct professor in the school and part owner of Maspons Funeral Homes. “The funeral service industry is a career that is rewarding, and a program that is fairly quick.”
Karen Baquedano, who is currently enrolled in the funeral services education program at the North Campus, is taking advantage of the program’s short track. After graduating from Florida International University with a bachelor’s in art education in 2007, Baquedano, 24, had a hard time finding a job. She decided to return to school and study funeral services because it seemed economically profitable.
“I never thought that I would use art in funeral service education,” Baquedano said.
For other students like Alina Kowalski, a career in funeral services is a compromise of two potential careers.
“I wanted to be a make-up artist or a surgeon, and funeral services combines both,” said Kowalski, 19. “My dream is to embalm a drag queen or someone famous.
The program holds one of the highest number of students who graduate and pass the board examination, according to Dr. William A. Powell, an associate senior professor
for the School of Funeral Service Education.
Powell said that besides the economic viability “curiosity is the initial attraction” that draws students into the mortuary science field.
For Tara Iannacone, a student in the North Campus program, the interest started at a young age. When she was 16 and living in New Jersey, she decided that the industry was right for her.
“I must admit,” Iannacone jokingly stated. “I’m a little morbid and weird.”
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