Exciting year ahead for South Georgia Technical College
AMERICUS — South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) is anticipating an exciting year filled with new opportunities and possibilities which may include the naming of a new president, additional academic programs, building renovations, and initiatives that provide students with expanded options while also allowing them to enjoy the “Complete College Experience!” The year has already started off on a good note with increased enrollment.
SGTC is one of only two technical colleges in Georgia with on-campus housing. That distinction, along with nationally recognized academic programs, student activities, and athletics, has made the institution a leader in the Technical College System of Georgia.
Sparky Reeves retired as president of SGTC on Sept. 30, 2015, after 42 years at the college and 11 years at the helm as president. Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Commissioner, Gretchen Corbin, selected SGTC’s Vice President of Administrative Services, Janice W. Davis, to serve as the acting president until the recent appointment of John Watford to the position.
At the time of this article’s initial publication, Watford was yet to be appointed.
“I am honored to serve as acting president for South Georgia Technical College until Commissioner Corbin and the TCSG State Board appoints a permanent president for this outstanding two-year technical college,” said Davis. “South Georgia Tech has been recognized as one of the outstanding technical colleges in the state and nation for academics, athletics, and activities. Our focus as a college is to continue and expand on that legacy by supporting student success and training individuals for the workforce.”
Davis, along with senior staff members, then-Vice President of Academic Affairs, John Watford, Ed.D.; Vice President of Economic Development, Wally Summers; Vice President of Student Affairs, Technology, and Institutional Support, Karen Werling; Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Su Ann Bird; and Assistant to the President, Don Smith, are working together with other faculty and staff to keep the college moving forward in 2016 and beyond.
One positive step has been to increase enrollment for both Fall and Spring semesters. SGTC was one of only five technical colleges in the state to show an increased enrollment for Fall Semester 2015. SGTC was also one of less than 10 colleges to continue to show an increased enrollment for Spring Semester 2016.
South Georgia Tech has been able to accomplish this with the help of several initiatives such as the “Move On When Ready” and “Guided Pathways” initiatives approved by Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, and the state legislature. “Move On When Ready” is a new dual enrollment opportunity for high school students in grades nine through 12, which allows all public school, private school, and home schooled students to earn college credit at no cost to the students while they are working toward a high school diploma.
“Students must still meet the college’s admissions requirements and maintain satisfactory academic progress, but there is no Georgia residency requirement and students are still eligible for the full HOPE Grant or Scholarship funding if they choose to continue their education after receiving a high school diploma,” stated Acting President Davis, who added that this initiative has increased the number of high school students who are currently enrolled in college credit classes at South Georgia Tech.
“Guided Pathways” is another big push for the college. This Complete College America and Complete College Georgia initiative is designed to help boost college completion. SGTC has implemented a block schedule or semester-by-semester academic outline of courses to be taken in sequence to guide students toward graduation. This will help with retention as well as completion.
The first two academic programs offering the “Guided Pathways” at SGTC are criminal justice and welding. Three other programs also scheduled using this method but they are special admit programs. They are heavy equipment dealer’s service technology, practical nursing, and agricultural technology.
Another initiative that has helped improve enrollment is the state’s “Go Back, Move Ahead” program that raises awareness and encourages students to come back or start college so that they have the opportunity to move ahead in their professional and personal lives. Multiple resources are available to help students who want to continue their education. A special student navigator employee is available at South Georgia Tech to assist these returning students.
News by the National GED Testing Service that passing scores for high school equivalency (GED) has been recalibrated from 150 to 145 will mean that an additional 1,900 Georgia students may now be eligible for Georgia’s high school equivalency credential which will provide a path for some test-takers to receive college credits.
In light of the news about the new GED test scores, GEDTS is providing a new promotion to encourage students to determine if they are ready to take the GED test. This promotion offers students 50 percent off the GED-Ready test if purchased through MyGED. Students can use the code PASS2016 an unlimited number of times between now and March 31 to receive the discount.
“Each of these initiatives are helping South Georgia Tech’s enrollment, retention, and completion rates. I would also like to thank our dedicated faculty and staff who are responsible for implementing these programs and providing students with the skills or services needed to make sure that they are successful,” added Davis.
Increased program offerings
South Georgia Tech is also implementing or expanding several academic programs to offer more opportunities for students. The college graduated its first class of the John Deere TECH agricultural technology students in December 2015, and is moving forward to expanding enrollment in that program as well as a Kauffman Tire partnership program in the automotive maintenance technology field.
Other new programs planned for the upcoming year include diesel power generation, a new program being developed in partnership with Caterpillar, the new unmanned aircraft (drone) technology program, and an expanded partnership with Georgia Power and others in utility equipment technology.
“Exciting academic opportunities are available at South Georgia Technical College,” explained Davis. “Students can choose from other 200 different technical certificate of credit, diploma, or degree opportunities. Some of the classes are eight weeks or less. Several programs also receive additional funding provided by the Governor’s Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grants (SIWDG) that make them almost tuition free.”
Those programs include practical nursing, commercial truck driving, welding, diesel equipment technology, early childhood care and education, medical coding, networking specialist, and phlebotomy technician. In addition to the SIWDG funding, SGTC is offering students access to textbooks at no cost.
In preparation for the expansion and addition of academic programs, South Georgia Tech is in the process of renovating its Transportation Complex. SGTC has received $3.45 million from the state legislature to merge the existing Diesel Equipment Building and the Morgan Transportation Building into one larger building. The project involves 12,688 sq. ft. of new construction and major renovation to both buildings totaling 30,000 sq. ft. The finished building will represent state-of-the-art technologies in diesel and automotive technologies and building systems. It will also advance college partnerships with automotive and diesel companies by training well qualified technicians now and in the future.
Other renovation projects include a roof replacement effort that is a $1.655 million investment. This project will provide new roofs for nine Americus campus buildings as well as additional insulation installed on all buildings to enhance energy efficiency. The buildings involved in this project include the Odom Center, Hicks Hall, Haynes Hall, the Lonnie Sweat Building, Morgan Building, the Diesel Equipment Technology Building, Griffin Building, James Peters building, and James Hall.
Both of these projects were funded by the Legislature and were signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. The college is extremely grateful to the local legislative delegation that made this happen as well as to state Rep. Mike Cheokas, who led the effort.
“This is an exciting year for South Georgia Tech,” said Davis. “All of these new academic offerings, initiatives, and renovation projects are all designed with one thought in mind… student success. We want students to be successful. Their success expands to the success of business and industry and each community that we serve.”
Driver’s education and other opportunities
Other new opportunities that will expand those efforts at South Georgia Tech includes a new three million dollar competitive grant and a driver’s education grant to finance driver’s education classes for area teenage drivers.
The three million dollar federal competitive grant that began this year will fund five new full-time positions to enhance the admissions/retention process by adding a high school initiative specialist, a financial aid specialist, two admissions/retention counselors, and a grant coordinator. The grant will also fund two part-time tutors to assist students with additional assistance as well as help the college promote the new “Move On When Ready” opportunities and encourage enrollment in STEM related programs. It will also assist South Georgia Tech with its SACSCOC reaffirmation Quality Enhancement Plan which is the “READ” or “Reaching Every Academic Dream” initiative.
The Driver’s Education state grant will allow SGTC to help finance driver’s education training for qualified 15-18 year-old students in the school’s service area. This training features 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel experience with a trained instructor. SGTC will train over 150 teenage drivers at no cost to the students or parents this coming year.
“We are looking forward to an exciting year that is teeming with opportunities and possibilities, not only for our faculty, staff, and students, but also for each of the six communities that we serve in Sumter, Crisp, Macon, Schley, Marion, and Webster counties,” said Acting President Davis.
-Submitted by SGTC