Augusta State University and Paine College do a great job of educating young people and are huge assets to our community. Yet the fastest growing institution of higher learning in our area is neither Paine nor ASU. It's Augusta Technical College.
Last year Tech enrolled 6,601 students - a 20 percent jump from 2001. This follows a national trend that's seen enrollments at two-year colleges explode to nearly 6 million.
These colleges must be doing something right - at the least they show a good liberal arts education isn't the only kind of education available to get ahead. Just ask the inventors of that Internet phenom, Google.
Not only is Augusta Tech's student population expanding by leaps and bounds, but so is its space - and a good thing too. The campus was getting awfully crowded and cramped with instructors holding some of their classes in storage rooms.
But last week the school's space increased a whopping 25 percent with the dedication of the $8.4 million student services and classroom buildings. These new structures add 68,000 square feet of classrooms, occupational labs, a book store, snack bar and admissions office.
Most important, though, is that the additional space will make the learning environment a great deal more comfortable and ease the college's mission, which is vitally important to the region.
Augusta Tech is no longer just a two-year "junior college" that's a feeder to four-year universities. Plus, it's the first place laid-off Augusta area workers turn to for retraining. The college customizes its training to meet the needs of area business and industry.
Earlier this year the college added a Radiation Tech program to help the Medical College of Georgia teach radiology. Future plans include adding a media communications program to provide students with the skills to become graphic artists, Web designers and videographers.
Make no mistake. Augusta Tech isn't just a learning institution - it plays a critical job-training and economic development role for our region. Its continued expansion in both enrollment and space is very good news indeed.