Trident Technical College has record enrollment this fall, and it's not hard to see why.

Nearly 1,000 more students are enrolled than at this time last year, making it the second-largest college in the state for undergraduate students, right behind USC.

Perhaps the secret of Trident's success is its affordability and accessibility. The school recently added Mount a Pleasant campus, in addition to the North Charleston, Moncks Corner and downtown Charleston locations. It also offers career training at locations in Hollywood, St. George and Summerville, and continues to expand its partnerships throughout the area, in addition to online course offerings.

Of course Trident is not the only school that's added new locations and other options to accommodate students. But it's clearly leading the charge in a lot of high-demand areas.

Affordable

Like other higher learning institutions, Trident is doing all this in spite of declining state funding.

Trident's 150 programs of study offer an affordable path to careers for thousands of Lowcountry residents.

The total tuition and fees per semester for a tri-county resident is $1,800, for 12 credits, or $3,600 per year. And that's before lottery scholarship savings. The school says the average cost for one of its associate degrees is $9,080, compared with an average of $32,000 for local for-profit colleges.

That makes Trident Tech an incredibly good deal, especially when you consider the school's strong emphasis on extremely marketable skill sets. The school also employs a high degree of transparency online, by making cost and fee schedules easy to find and posting its monthly statements on its website for anyone to review.

Not saying other schools don't have that information available, but it would be nice if it didn't involve downloading a PDF to find tuition information (just an idea, Art Institute).

One student at a time

Trident has a track record of consistently and quickly responding to this area's changing needs.

Its culinary program filled the void when Johnson & Wales left Charleston. Its nursing program is a huge draw.

And the school's partnership with Ready SC means that Boeing shouldn't have any shortage of workers for its assembly plant.

It's no coincidence that Trident's case for support, an online document explaining the school's value to potential donors, is called "Building the Lowcountry Economy, One Student at a Time."

And that's probably why they're able to attract generous donors like local McDonald's owner Carolyn Hunter, who gave Trident Tech a million dollars to do whatever they need to do to improve.

If enrollment numbers keep increasing, expect the school to do everything it can to continue to meet the need. It wouldn't be surprising if one day it has the largest student enrollment in the state.

As college President Mary Thornley said earlier this year: "We've got what students need."

More than 16,000 people obviously agree.

Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at mbalog@postandcourier.com or 937-5565.