Saturday, December 4, 2010

Valdosta's Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Named Technical College of the Year

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College in Valdosta was named Technical College of the Year at the December 2 meeting of the State Board that oversees the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). The Board also announced that it will honor Governor Sonny Perdue’s leadership and strong commitment to the success of Georgia’s 26 technical colleges with the new award in his name.

“Our technical colleges in Georgia are critical components of our overall economic development strategy,” Governor Perdue said. “I am proud to congratulate Wiregrass Georgia Technical College on this honor. Georgia’s technical colleges are emerging from this downturn stronger and ready to meet the advanced, high-tech workforce demands of today’s global economy.”

The Governor Sonny Perdue Award for the Technical College of the Year will be presented annually to the top college in TCSG.  Judging for the award is based on almost two dozen performance criteria, including enrollment numbers, graduation rate, student retention, job placement rate, cost efficiency, completions in adult education programs, and trends in specialized workforce training.

“Governor Perdue has long been a champion for Georgia’s economic development and he understands the vital role that the TCSG colleges have in producing a highly-skilled, 21st Century workforce that attracts companies to our state and enables Georgia businesses and industries to thrive in the face of global competition,” said Dean Alford, the chairman of the State Board of the TCSG..

“With Governor Perdue as our state’s chief executive, our technical colleges have grown to be recognized as a premier destination for some of the very best technical education and workforce development programs in the nation,” said Alford.  “Now, it’s only fitting that we establish a technical college of the year award that bears his name and honors not just his long legacy of commitment and support for the TCSG, but also the outstanding leadership that he has provided for the people of Georgia.”

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College is the first recipient of the honor.

Dr. Ray Perren, the president of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, accepted the award on behalf of his faculty, staff and students.  The other Perdue Award finalists were Albany Technical College, Atlanta Technical College and Altamaha Technical College in Jesup.

It has been an exceptional year for Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, which formed after the merger of Valdosta Technical College and East Central Technical College in July.  Enrollment at the college surged by 34 percent in 2010 to 6,198 students, and the number of those students attending as a full-time equivalent increased by 48 percent.  By the end of the year, the college graduated 756 students in certificate, diploma and degree programs, which was a 16 percent increase over the previous year.

The number of adult learners that enrolled in the college’s adult education programs, including Adult Basic Education and Adult Secondary Education, grew by 14 percent.  The college also focused on encouraging its GED graduates to transition on to technical college, with an 11 percent increase in that area.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College also improved on its operational efficiencies in a time of fiscal belt-tightening by reducing its average expenditure per full-time equivalent by almost 21 percent.  The college, like many of its sister colleges in the TCSG, sought those efficiencies by lowering administrative costs and not by reducing students access to instructional programs, classrooms and technology.

The exceptional performance and focus on education programs that has been demonstrated by Wiregrass Georgia Technical College reflects broader growth and progress throughout the TCSG in recent years.  In fact, during Governor Perdue’s two terms in office, enrollment in the Technical College System of Georgia grew by 42%, adding more than 57,000 students to a total that reached 191,000 last year.  The record-breaking enrollment necessitated more student access to state-of-the-art facilities, classrooms and labs, and Governor Perdue responded over the years by approving the appropriation of 42 capital projects for the colleges and numerous other campus renovations and improvements that combined are worth more than $700 million dollars.

Governor Perdue also approved a change in the system’s name from the old Department of Technical and Adult Education to the more modern and descriptive Technical College System of Georgia.  He also supported the decision in 2009 to save taxpayers millions and make the TCSG more efficient by merging 13 of its colleges into six.  The mergers saved more than $6 million annually by eliminating excessive administrative costs while resulting in larger, financially stronger colleges that offer improved student access to programs and technology.

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