MOULTRIE -- Both Moultrie Technical College and its Tifton campus hit record enrollment this fall quarter.

Overall enrollment is up to 1,938, college officials said. That's a jump from 1,893 this time last year.

At the Tifton campus, 658 students -- about 34 percent of the total -- are enrolled. Tifton enrollment is up "slightly from last fall," Vice President of Operations Richard Strickland said Thursday, and is up about 5 percent from this time two years ago.

In the past five years, the college as a whole has nearly doubled its enrollment. Annually, about 7,100 students participate in an MTC program, whether it's a college credit enrollment program, adult literacy or economic development and continuing education. Additionally, some of the enrollment increase is due to partnering with area school boards to dual-enroll high school students, MTC Director of Instructional Services Karen Willis said.

"I think this is just the beginning," MTC President Tina Anderson said. "You hate to give predictions, but I think it is the beginning of great things that are going to happen with the new campus here and the expanded campus opening in Tifton. Opportunities abound." Moultrie Tech has campuses in Colquitt, Tift, Turner and Worth counties and attracts students from about 34 other counties as well, Willis said.

Online classes, particularly computer and business classes and medical core classes, are boosting enrollment numbers, but all four campuses are savoring overall increases in traditionally delivered classes.

"A student from anywhere in the world, actually, can take an online class with us," Anderson said. "Our online classes have to meet the same standards, the same expectations as any of our traditional classroom classes."

With classes offered day and night, weekday and weekends, Moultrie Tech is building a reputation for convenience, flexibility, variety and quality, the college officials said. More Saturday programs are expected.

Part of Moultrie Tech's allure is its expansion of programs to suit demand or industry need. The Tifton campus' size will nearly triple when additions open in January, Strickland said, and new programs approved for the Tifton campus include early childhood education, criminal justice, surgiological technology, paramedic technology and commercial truck driving. The office technology program will add a legal office specialty.

"This is an exciting time for us," said Strickland. "We're on target for completion of the buildings, and we're getting ready to hire new staff and buy equipment. We're ordering about $620,000 in new furniture and will spend about $300,000 on computers."

At the Moultrie campus, paramedic technology and supervisory management will be offered soon to meet a growing demand in those areas.

MTC officials rely on an advisory board to steer the college in the right direction that will continue to spur economic development. And the college stands behind its product. Any student graduating from MTC can come back within two years for retraining free of charge if he or his employer finds he lacks skills in the area in which he was trained, Anderson said. Usually, when students do retrain, it's to pass certification tests, she said.

"If a student comes back to us under the warranty for retraining, we don't see that as a negative. We see it as an opportunity to increase the skills we provide to students. We work hand-in-hand with our businesses," she said.

Anderson says she is optimistic that state legislators will keep the HOPE grant and scholarship program alive so that MTC can continue its partnership with business and industry.

Tifton Gazette city editor Florence Rankin contributed to this story.

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