CONWAY — Horry Georgetown Technical College has spent $1.8 million over the last four years keeping continuing education classes alive, when a dismal economy and ongoing cuts to state funding prodded them to downsize.
College president Neyle Wilson said Thursday that administrators held on, hoping that a rescue ship would appear on the horizon. But now, he said, its obvious theres no ship in sight and not likely to be one for at least two years.
The college has decided to completely cut out community interest classes such as cake decorating and flower arranging, Wilson said, and reduce the number of classes offered for things such as computer education.
Its going to be more focused, Wilson said of the new direction for continuing education.
While the school will cut five professors two of whom are retired and working under a special state program and another just months from retirement and lead to the reassignment of three staff members, Wilson said the college will hold onto those continuing education programs that get enough students and revenue to pay for themselves such as a real estate partnership with Fortune Real Estate and construction and trades licensing.
The school also will continue to let businesses use the Grand Strand Conference Center for training, but leadership training that used to be a regular part of continuing education will now convene only as businesses ask for them.
The cutbacks will allow the school to weather increasing costs for salaries, benefits and insurance and potential further cuts in state funding as well as to institute a program of hiring fulltime professors rather than continuing to rely on so may part-timers, said Wilson and Harold Hawley, the colleges chief financial officer.
Hawley said administrators are still working on which programs will get priorities for new full-time personnel, but he said decisions will be based on program requirements, enrollment and the tenure of faculty already teaching them.
Wilson said HGTCs state funding has dropped 40 percent in the last five years and hes heard rumors than another 2 percent cut is coming in January. Hawley said increases in salaries, benefits and insurance have added $800,000 to $1 million to annual operating costs, a portion of which has been offset by a growth in enrollment.
The college now has 149 full-time faculty members and 181 who are part-time, above a commonly accepted 70:30 ratio based on number of classes taught by each, said college spokeswoman Mary Eaddy.
But in programs that are growing fast and should continue to do so, the school might like to have more full-time professors teaching them.
Wilson said the school has pockets of success in its continuing education program, areas such as certified nursing assistant and defensive driving.
Since this years catalogue has already been printed, he said all the continuing education courses in it will be offered through this school year. But there may be a higher threshold for the minimum number of students that must sign up for it to be taught.
Next years continuing education catalogue, will be much slimmer.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.