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December 9--  Policy makers for technical education and state government came together on Southeastern Technical College’s Swainsboro campus to discuss issues facing the state’s technical education system.

Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Commissioner Ron Jackson, State Representatives Matt Hatchett, Greg Morris and Butch Parrish and State Senators Jack Hill and Jesse Stone spoke on the needs of the TCSG and Southeastern Tech and how best to address those needs.

{mosimage}(L-R)STC President Cathryn Mitchell and TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson stand with State Reps. Greg Morris and Butch Parrish, State Sens. Jesse Stone and Jack Hill and State Rep. Matt Hatchett.

“I know how hard it is to stretch the dollar on the state level, but I also know that if you don’t tell your needs, your needs won’t be addressed,” said Jackson, formerly of the Governor’s Office of Planning Budget. “So we’re telling our needs.”

Jackson and STC President Dr. Cathryn Mitchell outlined their priorities for the coming year on the state and local level.  Mitchell began by laying out plans for a new building in Vidalia.

“We need to bring our campus, our library, our bookstore, our student center, our classrooms into the 21st century on the Vidalia campus,” said Mitchell.

The school’s plans call for a two-story, 81,000-square-foot building that will house no less than five programs and a new library and bookstore. The building would give the cosmetology program facilities to better accommodate the high-demand program, and it would allow several health science programs to have their own workspace, instead of sharing with other programs.

Mitchell also expressed a desire to start a Physical Therapy Assistant program and create a Commercial Truck Driving facility in Swainsboro in addition to the plans in place to renovate that campus’s Building 2. And with construction on Swainsboro’s new health science building getting underway after Thanksgiving, the school now has to focus on hiring employees to fill the new building.

The TCSG’s upcoming priorities begin with a similar goal: increasing the percentage of full-time faculty. Statewide, the average for technical college faculty is 33 percent full-time and 67 percent part-time.

“We desperately need to get that ratio up,” said Jackson.

Jackson said that the ideal ratio is 50-50, though for the 2015 fiscal year, the TCSG is pushing for a five percent increase in full-time faculty, which the system believes will create a one percent increase in graduation rate across the state.

The TCSG will also be pursuing an increase in full-time adult education faculty—going from 12 percent full-time to 20 percent, increasing students served by 17,000—and in Strategic Industry Workforce Development Grants.

The grants, first offered this year, offer money to HOPE Grant-eligible students in Georgia’s strategic industries. TCSG wants to expand the number of programs benefitting from the grants and increase grants awarded.

Legislators promised their support and lauded Southeastern Tech and the TCSG.

“My district is sort of scattered and it overlaps into four other technical colleges,” said Stone. “So, it’s interesting to see all the different approaches from school to school. And you all are on the right track, I can assure you of that.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the technical college system has a friend in the legislature,” said Hill. “We’re going to do everything we can to support our technical college system, particularly in our area.”

The legislators made note of Governor Nathan Deal’s responsiveness to the needs of technical education—Hill cited the strategic industry grants—and had faith that state government would remain receptive to technical colleges.