Pandemic concerns don’t seem to have slowed enrollment at Lanier Technical College.
The technical college in northeast Hall County began its semester on Aug. 17 with record enrollment numbers, according to school President Ray Perren. Perren said the school has seen about a 10% increase in students from last year, jumping from 4,616 last fall to 5,040 this semester, with about 50% of those students taking fully online courses.
“It’s a record in a big way,” he said. “It's not just barely over what our previous record was, so certainly we're thrilled with that.”
Perren said most of the students who have been attending classes on the campus off Ga. 365 have been taking lab-oriented courses that could not be completed remotely.
Lanier Technical College offers many classes involving hands-on work that cannot be simulated in a virtual setting, Perren said.
“You can't teach welding remotely; you've got to put your hands on a welder, for example,” he said. “You can't teach nursing remotely. You've got to actually get in and work with patients or simulated patients. So, we've got a lot of students who are on campus for those lab experiences.”
Lanier Tech’s in-person students have been adhering to a variety of precautionary measures to help stem the potential spread of COVID-19.
All students and employees are required to wear masks in school buildings and are required to have their temperature checked upon arriving on campus. Desks in classrooms have been spaced 6 feet apart when possible, according to Perren.
Jay Maughon, director of the construction management and carpentry technology program at Lanier Tech, said teaching with a mask on has been an interesting adjustment for instructors at the school.
“Never thought I’d have to know what doctors and nurses go through every day,” he said.
Maughon said keeping the entire Lanier Tech community healthy would be a group effort among Lanier Tech students and staff, likening the school to a workplace environment where a business is dependent on all of its employees working in tandem to find success. He said instructors at Lanier Tech try to simulate real-world situations in the classroom as often as possible, and the pandemic is providing an opportunity to do so.
“I have to give credit to our students with this,” he said. “The students have actually responded very well.”
Perren said employers of trade positions are hiring at high rates right now, “particularly in manufacturing fields.”
He said Lanier Tech’s commitment to putting its students directly into the workforce is as important as it's ever been right now, calling the school’s work “critical and essential.” And while he acknowledged Lanier Tech was dealing with “the same problems everyone else in the world is facing right now,” Perren said that two weeks into the school year, the reopening has gone as smoothly as he could have hoped.
“Students were ready to come back to school, and were ready to learn, ready to engage with us,” he said. “That's been just such a positive experience.”