Chattahoochee Tech, the state's largest technical college, continues to see enrollment growth, largely a result of high unemployment and the school's merger with two other technical colleges in July 2009, officials say.
Since the merger, CTC has experienced double-digit increases in enrollment every quarter.
Though the winter quarter enrollment is just shy of the record enrollment of 13,470 students who registered in the fall 2010, the college expects to register more students when a full schedule of classes open for students in April at its newest campus in Canton. About 96 students are enrolled in four biology classes this quarter in Canton.
"The slow economy continues to push the surge in enrollment as new students seek to improve their job outlook," President Dr. Sanford Chandler said in a statement.
Felicia Rawles, 39, of Marietta was unemployed for six months before she decided to return to school to study nursing. She said she was nervous about doing so at first.
"I had been out of school for a while, so coming back to school was nerve-wracking," she said.
CTC has eight campuses, including two in Marietta, one in south Cobb and one in Acworth.
For the first time, the number of students enrolling in online courses has surpassed enrollment of nearly all of CTC's physical campuses, with only the Marietta campus having more students. Just over 4,000 students take courses online, CTC reported. However, some of them also attend class on campus.
"A lot of our students are balancing job, home and family," said Nancy Beaver, assistance vice president of student affairs. "They have a lot of responsibility on them, and online is an easier way for them to take a course. We've also had a number of military students that have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, that are taking courses while they are overseas."
Nearly 2,000 of the 13,200 students enrolled are new to CTC this quarter, according to the college.
Beaver said administrators have been busy preparing students for the college's transition from a quarter system to semester system. Beginning in August, CTC students, as well as students at other state technical colleges, will convert to semesters. Under a semester system, the academic year is divided into two, 15-week fall and spring sessions, followed by a 10-week summer session.
"It's a complete transition of some programs," Beaver said. "You may have had three classes in accounting under one program, but that is now two classes under a semester. We don't want to get students starting something that they can't finish before they transition. A lot of it has been advisement for those students."
CTC offers more than 100 certificate, diploma and associate degree programs. Among the most popular areas of study are heating and air technology, automotive, television production technology, cosmetology and allied heath care programs.
One course that may soon become a hit among students is American literature. Students in two such classes in Marietta and Acworth are provided with iPads to take home and use for the quarter, free of charge. Officials hope the new technology will save students money on books. The iPads must be returned at the end of the course for students to get their grades.
"It's something exciting, right off the bat," said Yuri Melnichuk, 32, of Marietta, a former construction company owner who is studying health-care sciences.