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Local campus sets record
Incoming class boosts enrollment at college
1 Lanier Tech pic1
Sebastian Tovar and Cason Hardigree work in the automotive lab at the Dawson Lanier Tech campus. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Lanier Technical College graduated 1,212 students from its programs in 2012.

For this year, that number currently stands at 1,101.

"The large reason for that is that enrollment numbers dropped so much two years ago, we didn't have as many students in the pipeline to graduate," said President Ray Perren.

There had been a 19 percent decrease in enrollment between 2010 and 2011.

He pointed out that enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is up nearly 5 percent since 2012.

In early September, 3,540 students were enrolled at Lanier Tech. Around 300 of those are dual-enrollment students

Around 1,900 are first-year students, making it the largest freshman group the college has had in years.

For Dawson County, the increase in students includes an all-time record high of 213 students for the Dawson Campus, the largest enrollment for any given academic term in the history of the campus.

"We are excited to be serving over 200 students at the Dawson Campus of Lanier Technical College," said Troy Lindsey, Dean of the Dawson Campus. "The entire Lanier Tech Community has worked hard to reach this milestone. We look forward to continued growth as we serve our students and the community."

"We made great progress in putting things in place and making plans to improve our graduation rate," Perren said. "This year we're in the process of really implementing those plans."

One of those plans involves creating an individualized plan of study for all students when they enter as freshmen.

"We're also beefing up our advisement program," he said. "We're using an application called Starfish, which is sort of an early warning system for students who tend to get in trouble in terms of attendance or their academic performance."

With the program, the college can identify those students earlier, increasing the chance of success.

In a plan submitted last year by Lanier Tech to Complete College Georgia, it was proposed that the college increase graduation rates by 5 percent annually.

Perren explained that not all graduates are reported to Complete College Georgia, but only those students who receive associate degrees, two-year diplomas or a Technical Certificate of Credit if it leads to professional licensure. Additionally, a student with a four-year diploma is not counted under Complete College Georgia.

For this year, the goal was to increase the number of students graduating under those parameters by 40 students, but Lanier Tech added only 30.

The Complete College Georgia initiative lends itself to the state's goal of adding 250,000 post-secondary graduates into the workforce by 2020.

"We are up in enrollment from this time last year," Perren said. "Dual enrollment is a record number. So even though our graduates are down, right now I think in the next year or so you'll see that number begin to rise again because we will have more students in the pipeline."

He said one barrier in keeping students from attaining an education is financial.

"A majority of our students are first-time college students," Perren explained. "No one in their family has ever gone to college, so many of them are looking for ways to finance college."

He said the HOPE grant and scholarship program has been an asset to a lot of people, but many still have financial issues.

He is optimistic Lanier Tech will reach the goal of increasing its graduation rate.

"Regardless of what [the] test scores [say], the group of kids coming out of high school today are the brightest bunch of kids that this country's ever produced," Perren said. "And the ones that come to us really tend to know what they want to do when they graduate. The program they study in is very relative to them, and they tend to do very well once they get into Lanier Tech."