The system’s 26 colleges enrolled 190,842 students in fiscal year 2010, which ended on June 30. The total smashes the previous record high enrollment set in 2009 by more than 34,000 students.
The 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 the technical colleges for training and skills enhancement.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College President Craig McDaniel said there’s more to the statewide growth than just trying to get training for new jobs. There’s also expanding programs and reaching out to local schools that are bringing in students.
“We’re seeing a substantial number of high school kids choosing technical colleges as their first choice after graduation,” he said. “We’ve tripled that number over the past six years.”
The growing number of students in tough economic times can be a double-edged sword with state cuts coming to the college’s budget this year, McDaniel said.
“If we continue to have to make cuts, we’ll have to make decisions about which programs are the most relevant,” he said. “That’ll be a hard process to go through. And though the state has helped us out with tuition increases, we continue to get state budget cuts and we’re going to lose another 4 percent this year.”
“We continue to do more with less, but at some point in time you just can’t cut. You can’t go on without making cuts to the core,” McDaniel also said.
However, McDaniel said he was “glad for the growth. It’s good to be in a business that’s growing.”
TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson said, “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.”
The economy’s effect is apparent among the student age groups, where the percent of enrollment-increase rose as the ages got older:
Younger than 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 was also 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 over 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.