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Tech school enrollments setting records
ATLANTA — A 22 percent jump in the number of students attending the state’s technical colleges has set a new annual enrollment record for the Technical College System of Georgia. The system’s 26 colleges enrolled 190,842 students in fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30. The total smashes the previous record-high enrollment set in 2009 by more than 34,000 students.
At Savannah Technical College, total enrollment was up 13 percent from the previous year, with the college serving 9,639 students in 2009-10, up from 8,531 in 2008-09.
Savannah Tech President Dr. Kathy S. Love said, “It was a record-setting year for us, with enrollment topping 5,000 for the first time. Our enrollment increased every quarter in FY2010 and we’re expecting increases to continue into the current fiscal year. We’ve just started our summer quarter, usually the smallest in terms of enrollment, and early numbers show that we’re going to exceed 4,000 summer quarter students for the first time.”
The technical college system’s surge in enrollment has been fueled in part by people who are either out of work or under-employed due to the stagnant economy. Those Georgians are turning to technical colleges for training and skills enhancement in programs where the job outlook is more promising, like heath care, energy and the environment, information technology and entrepreneurial trades such as plumbers and electricians.
“Even as the state grapples with its own budget issues, our technical colleges have accepted a record number of new students in search of the skill sets and knowledge that will better situate them for employment in today’s tough job market,” Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson said. “This amazing ability of the TCSG to welcome tens of thousands of new students during an economic downturn is a reflection of the high quality and immense dedication of the faculty and staff at each college.”
The 26 technical colleges delivered 4.39 million credit hours of instruction in 2010, up from 3.49 million hours in 2009.
The effect of the economy is apparent among the student age groups. Enrollment percentages increased with each age group:
• Under 21: up 11 percent to 46,910 students
• 21-25: up 22 percent to 46,377 students
• 26-30: up 25 percent to 28,780 students
• 31-35: up 26 percent to 20,597 students
• 36-40: up 30 percent to 16,916 students
• Older than 40: up 32 percent to 31,262 students
There also was a significant jump in the number of TCSG students receiving the federal Pell and Georgia HOPE grants in the past year. Pell grants, which are based on financial need of the student and his or her family, were awarded to 89,019 TCSG students in 2010, a 53 percent increase from the 58,193 students who received the grants in 2009.
The number of TCSG students using the Georgia HOPE grant also grew by 26 percent, from 116,534 in 2009 to 147,046 in 2010. (There is duplication in the Pell and HOPE grant totals as some students are eligible for both).
Tuition at the TCSG colleges is among the lowest in the Southeast, averaging about $2,700 a year. Almost nine of every 10 TCSG students use federal and state grants to reduce a portion of out-of-pocket college education costs.
Jackson said two factors are at work that will determine the level of continued enrollment growth at the TCSG colleges. “What happens with the national and state economy is most certainly a wild card in our future enrollment. Also, more and more high school graduates and their parents are making the TCSG their first choice for a college education,” he said. “Long gone are the days of our technical colleges being Georgia’s best-kept secret for quality higher education and a pathway to a better career.”

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