Columbus Technical College is No. 1 among the 26 institutions in the state system when it comes to total enrollment growth the past year.
Total enrollment increased 6.2 percent, from 5,928 in fiscal year 2012 to 6,295 in fiscal year 2013 at Columbus Tech, according to a Technical College System of Georgia report.
Even more impressive, that growth was achieved while the state system as a whole saw its enrollment go in the opposite direction, a decline of 3.6 percent, from 156,800 to 151,150.
Only six other technical colleges in the state increased their total enrollment this past year: Georgia Piedmont Technical College, by 5.4 percent; Atlanta Technical College, by 4.2 percent; Southern Crescent Technical College, by 1.5 percent; Gwinnett Technical College, by 0.9 percent; Oconee Fall Line Technical College, by 0.3 percent; and Ogeechee Technical College, by 0.1 percent.
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Total enrollment means full-time and part-time students combined. Columbus Tech also ranks high in the state system for full-time equivalent enrollment growth, soaring 11.2 percent, from 2,965 in fiscal year 2012 to 3,297 in fiscal year 2013. That's No. 3 in the state, behind only Georgia Piedmont, which had an increase of 16.3 percent, and Atlanta, which had an increase of 15.9 percent.
Columbus Tech President Lorette Hoover is on vacation and wasn't available for comment. Vice president for student affairs Tara Askew credits two main factors for the college rising above the system's fall:
New recruiting and marketing strategies attracted more students.
New emphasis on retention kept them enrolled.
"We were just very aggressive with getting the word out about what's going on at the college and what we can offer," Askew said. "The recruiting team just went above and beyond."
As an example, when prospective students express an interest in the college, more of them receive phone calls now instead of only mail from Columbus Tech, she said.
For retention, the college started pre-enrollment workshops to orient students earlier. And the optional freshman seminar, where students hone study skills and money management, became mandatory.
"We found that students usually don't do options," Askew said with a laugh.