Drafting TechnologyAs Southern Regional Technical College continues to grow, so does its enrollment numbers. The 2018 fall semester broke records when the 7-day enrollment, or official enrollment, showed that 4,650 students were in attendance, a significant increase since the birth of SRTC three years ago.
On July 1, 2015, Moultrie Technical College, central to Moultrie, and Southwest Georgia Technical College, central to Thomasville, merged to form Southern Regional Technical College. At that time, the enrollment was 3,600 students across six campuses including small satellite centers.
Now, with more than a quarter increase in enrollment, SRTC has been recognized as the school with the highest increased enrollment from the Technical College System of Georgia. SRTC isn’t the largest though, ranking sixth out of 22. The title was determined by a 20 percent increase in headcount enrollment and more than a 19 percent increase in full-time equivalency enrollment.
Full-time equivalency refers to the number of full-time credit hours enrolled rather than how many individuals are enrolled as full-time students. For example, two students enrolled in six credit hours each are equivalent to one full-time student.
The percentage applies to credit students only and excludes general educational development, non-credit economic development, and continuing education students.
Two of the tactics SRTC has used to reach potential students are advertising and career fairs. The focus on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, has increased since the merge. Career fairs, which are often held for young students in middle and high school, interest attendees by allowing them to explore the different programs available and leaving a lasting impression.
While these methods have helped reel students in over the years, an increase in dual enrollment numbers has been a major contributor this semester. There are 1,799 dual enrollment students, about 39 percent of the school’s total, from 14 high schools enrolled this fall.
Some of these students, along with a bulk of others, came from acquiring the Bainbridge campus. Bainbridge State College merged with Tifton’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in January, then SRTC took ownership of the technical division and its campus in July. An estimated 450 students were picked up.
After adding four counties—Decatur, Early, Seminole, and Miller—following the merge, SRTC now offers classes at 10 campuses in 11 counties. In addition to many online and hybrid courses, SRTC spreads across South Georgia from Ashburn to both Alabama and Florida state lines.
“I think having those additional campuses helps for convenience for students,” said SRTC President Dr. Craig Wentworth. “They can pick, and we have several students that take classes at multiple campuses.”
Seth Clark, a student in the auto collision repair program, stated that SRTC’s accessibility is what got him interested in the school. Not only was the location good but applying and registering proved to be simple. He now has a job in his career field while finishing up the program.
Clark’s instructor, Tim Morton, agrees that the school’s growth has been beneficial to students.
“Students have more opportunities,” Morton said. “We have more classes for them to choose from [and] more fields for them to opt from.”
The school currently features 151 programs for students looking to earn degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Some even qualify for transfer to select four-year colleges.
For Yasmine Martinez, a student in the veterinary technology program, it was all about finding a school that offers the program she needed.
“While my initial thought was to become a veterinarian, a lot of the bigger colleges, for example, ABAC only offered pre-vet,” Martinez said. “So, I graduated ABAC in 2017 and decided to go to Southern Regional because they offered vet technician rather than pre-vet.”
Dr. Wentworth wants to make the community aware that SRTC is an accredited college and much more expansive than the typical vocational school.
“I think many students think we still are like the old vocational-technical schools, that all we have is welding, electrical, and air conditioning, and we still have those programs,” Dr. Wentworth said. “But we have much, much more. … Our school of health sciences, which includes nursing, medical assisting, EMT paramedics, surgical technology, etc. … 40 percent of our students are in one of the programs in health sciences.”
Macey Moorman, who graduated from the surgical technology program in August, was one of these students. She now works as a certified surgical technologist at Tift Regional Medical Center and has been doing so since graduation. She credits SRTC with helping her prepare for the career.
“One of the things our teacher told us before we started clinicals [was] that the only time we should not be right beside who we were following that day is [during bathroom breaks],” Moorman said. “And she was right. If that person was too busy to take a lunch break that day, we didn’t get a lunch break either. It really felt like we were hospital employees.”
For these students, the atmosphere, class sizes and instructors have played a large role in their successes.
“It’s not like the typical college vibe,” Clark said. “[Students are] going there because they have an understanding of the career they wish to pursue and aren’t just taking classes to have a degree.”
“The class sizes I really liked,” Moorman said. “I feel with smaller class sizes you get more time for individual work with your professors. I also really liked how hands-on they were. From day one in the program, we were pulling supplies out of the lab to look at stuff.”
“I like that the teachers are easier to talk to and the classes aren’t so big, that each teacher can actually connect and get to know you,” Martinez said. “It seems like they’re more relatable.”
For instructors, the magic lies in the connection made with students and the success those students find.
“My favorite thing is the students’ face[s] when they learn to do something that they’ve been trying to do—when they find out that they can do what they want to do,” Morton said. “Like when they paint their first car, they get so excited. It’s the face that they make … like ‘I can achieve this.’”
As students and instructors alike continue to succeed, Dr. Wentworth plans to keep SRTC thriving by reaching out to as many people as possible. New programs needed in the workforce, such as CNC precision machining and manufacturing, polysomnographic technology, and tool and die, may be in the works soon. But for now, the goal remains on growing the enrollment and continuing to effectively educate students.
“Our main mission and focus is to give that education and training for students to go to work,” Dr. Wentworth said. “That’s really what we’re focused on. Let’s get them those skills and knowledge and that training and education so as soon as they graduate they can go to work.”