Ogeechee Tech on the move
iGot, return of HOPE Grant, new facilities give college a big boost
With Ogeechee Technical College's annual fundraising campaign just a week away, OTC president Dr. Dawn Cartee is positioning the college to meet workforce demands for the next several years and beyond while keeping a watchful eye on the current needs of her students.
Cartee said as with any other public entity, OTC has to live within its budget, and the only way to raise needed extra funds is through the Ogeechee Technical College Foundation and its iGot annual campaign.
"This is the only revenue source that we have beyond what is provided in our budget," she said. "We can't raise money through an athletic program or something of that nature, so this campaign and the money that is raised is very important to our student body. It goes directly to the foundation which in turn uses it to support students through scholarships, purchasing of equipment, training of instructors, or helping students with a special need."
Enrollment in technical colleges across the state declined with changes in the Georgia HOPE Grant Program in 2011 in which the minimum grade point average to be eligible for the grant increased from 2.0 to 3.0.
Georgia's HOPE Grant (a separate program from the HOPE Scholarship) is available to Georgia residents who are working towards a certificate or diploma (continuing education programs are not eligible) at an eligible college or university in Georgia. Full-time enrollment is not required and students are not required to graduate from high school with a specific GPA, however, they are required to have a postsecondary cumulative 3.0 GPA, at certain checkpoints, to maintain eligibility. There is proposed legislation pending to return the required cumulative GPA for the HOPE Grant to 2.0.
Cartee said more than 700 of the college's students were immediately affected. In 2011, OTC's enrollment dropped to 3,220, down from a high of 4,470 the previous year,
"Basically, one semester they were awarded the HOPE Grant, and then the next semester they weren't, even though their grade point average remained the same," she said. "We do have a number of students here pursuing associate degrees that are receiving the HOPE Scholarship, and many of them were impacted as well by changes in that program. Overall, changes in the HOPE program were something that a lot of our students were unable to overcome. Our enrollment numbers are up this fall, and that is very encouraging."
Local businessman Gary Barnes is the president of the Ogeechee Technical College Foundation and will chair this year's annual campaign. He is passionate about OTC's role as an educator in the community, particularly in the area of adult literacy.
"OTC opened its doors in Statesboro in 1989 with one credit program - practical nursing; the enrollment was 25," Barnes said. "Programs of study now range from criminal justice to cosmetology, computer information systems, culinary arts, funeral service, and fish & wildlife management.
"Perhaps most importantly, OTC is a great contributor to adult literacy," he continued. "Last year OTC served 602 adult education students and graduated 229 new GED students. By earning their GED, these students not only improved the quality of their lives, they also improved the quality of life in general in Bulloch and surrounding counties."
At present, OTC offers more than 100 programs of study. It has facilities in Bulloch, Evans, and Screven counties. Combined, the three campuses are situated on 120 acres, are home to 11 buildings, and 184,000 square feet of indoor space. Planning is slated to begin shortly on the new 59,000-square-foot Natural Resources Building to be constructed on the Statesboro campus.
"This building will house the agribusiness, criminal justice, fire science, forensic science, Geographic Information Systems, fish and wildlife management and adult education programs," Cartee said. "Also, it will have an industrial training lab that can be easily retrofitted for Quick Start to provide customized workforce training free of charge to qualified businesses in Georgia. This program is one of the state's key assets for supporting new and expanding industries."
OTC's iGot campaign will be held on March 12. More than 75 volunteers are expected to participate by visiting businesses throughout the community, soliciting donations for the foundation. This is the seventh annual iGot campaign (formerly Five Days in May). Last year, the campaign raised just under $300,000.
"I volunteer for Ogeechee Tech because of the contributions that the college makes to the communities served," Barnes said. "I feel that our community has been most generous to OTC, and I very much appreciate everyone's past support of the Ogeechee Technical College Foundation. I ask that you please show your support once again on March 12 when an I Gave to Ogeechee Tech ‘iGot' volunteer calls on you."
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