Tri-County’s Spring Enrollment Hits 6,400
CONTACT: REBECCA EIDSON, 646-1507
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/14/2010
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- Tri-County Technical College saw another unprecedented enrollment boon this semester, which began January 11. As of Wednesday, January 13, College officials report a preliminary spring semester enrollment figure of 6,400 (includes all three campuses), an 18.8 percent increase as compared to 5,388 students in spring of 2009.
Enrollment increases were across the board in age categories -- from recent high school graduates to those seeking an affordable alternative to a four-year college to those seeking rapid retooling skills through certificates and diplomas.
Second-semester freshman Cassandra Ledford, 18, saw Tri-County as a way to ease into academic life at a larger four-year university. Her plan is to transfer to Clemson University and focus on ESL (English as a Second Language) students in her teaching career. “It was my first choice,” she says, adding that Tri-County’s smaller size helps with getting to know fellow classmates as well as instructors. “The small classes of around 25 people allow us to have open discussions and other unique learning experiences that we could not have in a university class with 200 students. In only a few weeks, I knew everybody in my classes, and we’ve become a great resource for each other. It has really helped me to succeed at Tri-County,” she said. This semester there is an 11.5 percent increase in students ages 18 – 19 (1,928 this spring as compared to 1,730 last spring).
Another age category that shows an increase is the 30 – 34-year-olds. Preliminary College statistics for spring 2010 show an increase of 43 percent in that age category. Danielle Isleib, of Easley, 32, says comments by her sister, currently a University Transfer major at Tri-County, about smaller classes and one-on-one interaction with instructors prompted her to head back to the classroom. “I registered the second day of classes,” she said. “I expected to wait a long time, but it was so simple and easy. I had my six year old with me and I registered for classes, completed financial aid paperwork and talked to an advisor in two hours. It was a great experience. I already feel part of the Tri-County community.”
Sharon Sims, a Medical Assisting major from Easley, is among one of the other fastest growing groups of students at Tri-County. Figures show a 35.4 percent jump over the previous spring for individuals ages 40-60 who have returned to college to reposition themselves for new careers.
Sims feared she wouldn’t know a soul on her first day of classes. At 57, she’s back in the classroom to retrain for a new career after a plant shutdown ended her 30-year career in textiles. Walking the halls to find her classes, she saw a lot of familiar faces -- former co-workers and friends who also were forced to change careers after plant layoffs and closures. “There are so many people my age,” she said. “I found myself stopping to talk with people I knew. It was like a reunion. It made me feel so much better. I know I’m not alone.”
Tri-County is the fastest-growing technical college among the 16 in the state, according to data compiled over the last decade. Since 2002 Tri-County’s spring enrollment has grown 76 percent (3,637 students in 2002 versus 6,400 in 2010).
Nearly 1,000 more students enrolled at Tri-County this spring as compared to the previous spring, said President Ronnie L. Booth, citing affordability and accessibility as the top two reasons folks choose Tri-County.
“People understand our value proposition. A two-year degree at Tri-County costs roughly less than one semester at a four-year college or university,” he said.
“The availability of lottery and other means of financial aid makes education more affordable for many,” he said.
This spring $1,165,024 in lottery tuition scholarships have been granted to 1,811 students. Last spring lottery scholarships totaled $1,209,984 and were awarded to 2,060 students. The amount of Pell grants dispersed increased tremendously. This semester 2,984 persons received a total of $5,851,509, as opposed to 2,051 receiving $3,122,523 last spring. LIFE scholarships are on the rise also, with 918 receiving a total of $1,634,808 this semester as compared to 750 receiving $1,243,100 last spring.
Dr. Booth added that making college accessible, available and affordable to residents across the tri-county region remains a priority. Over the past couple of years, the College has addressed the diverse needs of individuals by opening campuses in Anderson and Seneca and by expanding online and evening offerings – in short, finding new and different ways to meet individuals’ needs and schedules.
The Anderson and Oconee campuses, along with the classrooms at the Watkins Community Center in Honea Path, serve several of the College’s goals by bringing its services closer to residents, increasing community involvement, and expanding educational opportunities.
With an Easley campus currently under construction, Tri-County soon will have a presence in all three of its service area counties.
Dr. Booth also credits this semester's enrollment surge with the increased awareness that a college degree isn't a luxury but a necessity for acquiring and maintaining employment in today's competitive workforce.
Cindy Gantt, who graduated from high school more than 35 years ago, returned to college almost two years ago on an Industrial Supervision scholarship. She worked as a supervisor in textiles for two decades. “But today, I need my associate degree to have the best opportunities for another job in supervision,” said the Liberty resident, who will graduate in May. “In today’s workforce, I know I wouldn’t even be in the running without a degree.”