MYRTLE BEACH — More than 8,400 students signed up for classes at Horry-Georgetown Technical College this fall, the largest enrollment since it was founded in 1966.
The state’s fourth-largest technical college has seen many changes since its first year when the first class of 123 students walked through the doors of Building 200 on the Conway campus located off of U.S. 501.
Two additional campuses have sprouted up since the technical college opened 56 years ago — one in Georgetown and the other in Myrtle Beach on the former Air Force base.
HGTC is also attracting new students for its more than 70 fields of study, with nearly 4,700 attending classes at the college for the first time this fall — a 35 percent increase over last year.
While enrollment at the two-year college currently represents 32 states across the county, a majority of its students are locals and South Carolina residents. 85 percent of HGTC’s students are in-state residents, and 6,208 students come from Horry and Georgetown counties, according to school officials.
With the college offering free tuition until 2023, there has been an increased demand for its educational programs.
“HGTC is pleased with the community’s faith in the college, especially in a time when two-year colleges across the nation have seen an alarming enrollment decline, and employers have seen an increased need for highly skilled workers,” said HGTC President Dr. Marilyn Murphy Fore in a release. “We are delighted to see a surge in interest in HGTC as the first choice among students to earn a high-quality education while enjoying a rewarding college experience.”
An increasing number of students annually led to the technical college needing to adapt, with numerous renovations and expansions of its three campuses over the years.
The college recently underwent a $400,000 renovation project of a building on the other side of U.S. 501 for its Diesel Engine Technician Program, which outgrew its former 5,000-square-foot facility on the Conway campus despite only being offered at the college since 2018.
HGTC’s Myrtle Beach campus on the former Air Force base additionally had an $8.4 million facelift.
Three academic and administrative buildings, existing stormwater drainage systems and its telecommunications infrastructure all were renovated during the multi-year project — making the Myrtle Beach campus the largest in terms of physical size over Conway and Georgetown, according to school officials.
The Georgetown campus on South Fraser Street has additionally expanded in recent years to meet the needs of industrial employers in Georgetown County.
In 2019, HGTC opened the 30,000-square-feet Advanced Manufacturing Center in Georgetown which houses welding, robotics, machine tools, mechatronics and computerized numerical control programs — two years after a similar center was built on the Conway campus.
Dr. Melissa Batten, HGTC’s vice president for Student Affairs, attributed all of the current growth to the college’s culture.
“We have a culture of care on our campuses where we work tirelessly to support students to be successful and lift them up when needed,” Batten said. “I believe that culture of care and the overall Gator community has resonated with our students, and that has shown in our enrollment numbers this fall.”
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