By Johnny Jackson
Griffin Technical College announced this week that its fall-quarter enrollment increased by 22.8 percent over last fall's enrollment.
School officials tallied a record enrollment of 5,130 students for the first day of fall classes on Sept. 30, compared to last fall-quarter's enrollment of 4,175.
The school, also known as Southern Crescent Technical College, previously reached a record enrollment of 4,383 students during its 2002 winter quarter, said Xenia Johns, Griffin Tech's student affairs vice president.
According to Johns, the college has experienced some single-term enrollment growth each of the past few quarters, but none as large as this fall's growth, which has been across-the-board in the college's different programs.
"We had expected great numbers for this fall quarter, but this enrollment has far exceeded our expectations," Johns said. "We are seeing a significant number of recent high school graduates, and it appears that the relevance of technical education is being realized by more and more potential students."
Eighteen-year-old Lauren Wilmot, a 2009 graduate of Luella High School in Locust Grove, said she decided to enroll at Griffin Tech because of the college's academic reputation and its proximity to her home in Henry County.
"I believe people are starting to go to Griffin Tech, because it is a really good school," said Wilmot, a medical assisting major at the school.
Wilmot said Griffin Tech's small class sizes were attractive factors in her considering the college and may have also attracted others to enroll.
"People are realizing that having a college education is important," she continued, "especially now that it is really hard to get a job. I know that after graduating, there is really good chance I'm going to get a good job."
Griffin Tech President Robert Arnold believes people want to be more versatile and marketable in their job and career searches as a result of the current economic climate.
"I've been asked why we are seeing growth at these levels," Arnold said. "A combination of economic factors and community needs are driving enrollment numbers [...], some of which we control and some we don't."
He acknowledged that a big draw for Griffin Tech has been the offering of programs geared directly toward its students' needs. The college, the fifth largest of 33 technical colleges in the state, offers more than 100 associate degree, diploma and technical certificate programs.
"Our College is working to stay in tune with those needs, and our efforts are underpinned by the quality faculty and staff we have here at Griffin Technical College," Arnold added. "Our main job is to provide the education these students are demanding and to continue to develop the workforce that will drive the economy of our state."