HGTC budgets for growth, but isn’t sure it will come

June 18, 2012 

CONWAY Horry-Georgetown Technical College President Neyle Wilson concedes the world is an uncertain place now, so predicting this fall’s growth in enrollment at the two-year school is not as easy as it might have been in the recent past.

The college’s operating budget anticipates there will be about 160, or 2 percent, more students taking courses beginning with the new semester.

But that figure is based on enrollment growth the school saw in its spring semester and for summer classes, not on last fall’s numbers, which fell 3 percent when compared with the fall of 2010.

If fall 2012 brings no growth in enrollment, the college will lose most of a $1.5 million cushion that’s built into the $35.8 million operating plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. And if as many as 200 fewer students enroll for classes this fall versus last fall, the college could see its first year-to-year budget decline in more than a decade.

If that happens, Wilson said, “it tells me we’re in a different arena and we’re going to have to make some adjustments.”

But no one really expects to see a significant decline in enrollment, and therefore a drop in revenue.

Harold Hawley, HGTC’s chief financial officer, said the college has planned an aggressive marketing campaign that will emphasize that it’s less expensive to get post-high school education at a technical college than at four-year or for-profit schools.

Further, the college may offer a 25 percent discount per course for online students, who now account for 10 percent of the school’s tuition revenue.

And the college is debuting five new programs this fall which officials hope will attract new students.

HGTC is the only of the state’s 16 technical colleges that didn’t increase tuition for the fall semester, but Hawley said the school may consider one for the spring semester.

Wilson said a 2 percent to 3 percent drop in enrollment for the fall would have college officials looking for places to cut the budget. But there are plenty of things they could choose before getting to a place where a program would have to be eliminated.

Easy things, such as cutting back or eliminating the budget’s travel expenses, could be chosen, Wilson said. But the cuts could also mean that the college would not hire some part-time teachers it had planned to, or that the jobs of some nonprofessional staff would be eliminated.

Wilson said that HGTC’s marketing plan also includes enticing more high school seniors into technical college than had taken that step in the past. He also said that emphasizing the lower costs of education at a two-year school versus private or four-year institutions could appeal to those who are financially strapped or can’t afford the higher costs at all.

But he doesn’t want to beat up on the state’s four-year schools.

“I think we have to be somewhat sensitive to four-year colleges,” he said. “I’m not at all concerned about being sensitive to private colleges.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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