OAKWOOD — It’s been nearly a year since Ray Perren took the helm at Lanier Technical College, with the months since April spent to better get to know the faculty.
Now he’s beginning to implement internal changes, with the aim of organizing the rapidly expanding school to accommodate more students and new academic programs.
The college, with campuses in Oakwood, Forsyth County, Dawsonville, Winder and Commerce, has seen a nearly 12 percent enrollment increase over this past year for the upcoming fall semester.
“That’s by far the highest enrollment increase in the state,” Perren said.
In fact, the overall Technical College System of Georgia has seen a 4 percent decrease in enrollment, making the strides Lanier Tech has taken seem even more remarkable.
“Ray and his staff are doing an outstanding job,” system spokesman Mike Light said. “They’ve made a very big enrollment push and they’ve tried to do some internal changes to bring more students and make it easier for students to come to the college.”
Because of the continued interest in Lanier Tech, Perren is beginning to restructure internally to change who employees report to and how they do so.
“Rather than having instructors reporting to the campus dean, they’re reporting to a dean that’s over their entire area,” he said.
“To give an example, we’ll have a dean over the allied health programs, and all [of those] instructors will report [to that dean].”
Those deans will be trained specialists in their particular fields, increasing professionalism and the competency of the college’s offerings Perren said.
“We have moved some people into some different positions, and that’s going into the efficiency as well,” he said. “But no one is losing their jobs. That’s one of the good things, because of our enrollment growth ... we’re not in a situation where anyone will be losing their jobs.”
The changes should be implemented within six months, the goal ultimately to add more programs to accommodate the growing student population, along with the surrounding community’s economic demands. An associate degree in nursing is planned for the next couple of years.
Perren is keeping an eye on what being near Lake Lanier means for local businesses.
“There’s several programs that we’re looking to bring on to support the economy around the lake, like marine engine technology, parks and recreation type programs and things of that nature,” he said. “We also want to bring in programs that support the economy in our area.”
He pointed to the hospitality industry, saying he wants to add programs like the culinary arts and tourism-type programs.
Light said the improving job growth in the region has helped increase enrollment.
“I think there’s a lot of desire on folks’ parts to take advantage of those new companies,” Light said. “They want to learn new skills so they can get those jobs.”
He said the entire system’s enrollment increased between 2008 and ’11; the 4 percent drop in enrollment is the system returning to normal numbers.
Growing industries in northeast Georgia, combined with a push for new programs and dual enrollment with local high school students, have helped Lanier Tech continue to grow.
“We believe it’s important that we have things in place that can help these programs grow,” Perren said.
“We have just a tremendously talented staff at Lanier Tech,” he said. “They’re all committed to our students and to our mission of work force development. I just see great things ahead for Lanier Tech.”