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Aiken Technical College sees enrollment drop during COVID-19, hopes for strong spring

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Fall enrollment is down at Aiken Technical College, but college officials are hoping for a strong spring semester.

Dr. Vinson Burdette, vice president of academic and student affairs, delivered an enrollment report at the Aiken County Commission for Technical and Comprehensive Education's monthly meeting Monday.

There are 725 new students enrolled for the fall, which is more than 200 fewer than last year's 931, according to Burdette's report. Overall enrollment is down by 13.7%.

Burdette explained that this percentage has been decreasing every week. The college created courses with a September start date instead of August, which Burdette said helped the enrollment numbers quite a bit.

Dr. Forest Mahan, president of ATC, explained that the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted enrollment at ATC.

Some students might be taking a gap year, postponing their education, Mahan explained. Others may have had trouble arranging class times that work with their children's school schedules, which are operating differently this year in Aiken County.

However, the fall semester is not over. Mahan said students can still register for classes that begin in October.

Additionally, ATC will have its spring schedule ready by October, Mahan said. The college will offer in-person, hybrid and online classes.

The priority deadline for spring financial aid is Oct. 1, and registration for returning students begins on Oct. 12. New students can begin registering for spring classes on Oct. 19, and classes will start on Jan. 11.

For more information about registration at ATC, visit atc.edu.

Tower technician program

Mahan said the college's new certified tower technician program has taken off, pulling in plenty of students.

The 12-day course accepts 12 students in each cohort, and the students learn in lectures and by climbing the college's 90-foot tall towers, according to ATC's website.

Mahan said many of the students have been military veterans with tuition already covered. The program partners with Warriors4Wireless, a nonprofit that connects military personnel with careers in the telecommunications industry, which also provides room and board for students.

"One of the good things about the tower program is that a lot of that work is done outside, so they're able to maintain social distancing and do it safely," Mahan said.

Welding lab renovations

Renovations at ATC's welding laboratory will begin later this fall.

With an upgraded ventilation system, the lab will accommodate up to 60 booths. Mahan said the program outgrew the lab's original 20 booths.

The new ventilation system will come during phase one of the project, which is planned to begin Nov. 6.

"We hope that we will be able to get a lot of work done over the holidays, and then we will probably hopefully be done, if all things go according to schedule, by January or February," Mahan said.

A new hire

Mechelle English is ATC's new vice president of advancement.

As leader of the college's newly-formed Advancement Division, English will supervise the offices of marketing and public relations, teaching and technology, institutional effectiveness and the ATC Foundation.

A native of Columbia, English holds a Master of Arts from Columbia College and a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina, according to the press release. She most recently worked at Florida A&M University as the the associate vice president for institutional advancement.

"I am thrilled to work with President Dr. Forest Mahan and many others to build on the college’s legacy and successes to provide the resources that our students, faculty, and staff richly deserve. I have a talented team, and we share a collective goal to help move ATC forward,” English said in a press release.

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