The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG; formerly the Department of Technical and Adult Education) oversees the state’s technical colleges, its economic and workforce development programs, and its adult education programs. Its headquarters are in Atlanta. The agency’s primary objective is to create a well-educated, technically trained, and highly competitive workforce, thus ensuring economic success for both the state and its citizens. The TCSG commissioner, along with the State Board of the TCSG, which is composed of members from the state’s fourteen congressional districts, and nine members at large, establishes standards, regulations, and policies for the operation of the system.
Members of the TCSG are Albany Technical College, Altamaha Technical College, Athens Technical College, Atlanta Technical College, Augusta Technical College, Central Georgia Technical College, Chattahoochee Technical College, Columbus Technical College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Gwinnett Technical College, Lanier Technical College, North Georgia Technical College, Oconee Fall Line Technical College, Ogeechee Technical College, Okefenokee Technical College, Savannah Technical College, Southeastern Technical College, Southern Crescent Technical College, Southern Regional Technical College, South Georgia Technical College, West Georgia Technical College, and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. The TCSG also operates Georgia Virtual Technical Connection, which coordinates and supports online learning within the system.
In fiscal year 2012 the system’s total enrollment was 170,860.
The origins of Georgia’s TCSG date back to 1917, when federal legislation provided funds to support vocational education in agriculture. The Smith-Hughes Act was cosponsored by Hoke Smith, U.S. senator and future Georgia governor, who recognized the need for modern training, especially in the wake of the cotton economy’s decline. Under the Smith-Hughes Act, each state was required to create a state board for vocational education. In the early twentieth century the primary purpose of vocational education was to prepare students to enter the workforce, and this is still the case today. More than 7 million workers were trained vocationally for defense and war production employment during World War II (1941-45).
As early as 1943, the Georgia state director of vocational education, M. D. Mobley, lobbied for a system of area trade schools. In 1944 the North Georgia Trade and Vocational School, the first vocational school in Georgia, opened in Clarkesville. The South Georgia Trade and Vocational School opened four years later in Americus. In 1958 State Supervisor of Trade and Industrial Education W. M. Hicks developed a set of policies for area vocational-technical schools, thus paving the way for a unified system of vocational training in Georgia.
By the late 1960s nineteen vocational-technical schools had opened in the state, and in 1967 Quick Start, today a nationally recognized program, was established to develop training for new and expanding industries in Georgia. The creation of the State Board of Postsecondary Vocational Education by Governor Joe Frank Harris in 1984 eventually led to the creation of the Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE) four years later. Businessman and educator Kenneth Breeden was its first commissioner. The year 1986 marked the beginning of more than twenty area technical schools converting from local to state governance. The conversion was complete in 2002, when Gwinnett Technical College, one of the largest technical colleges in the state, turned over control to the DTAE. In 2007 the DTAE created the Technical College System of Georgia, an entity comprising the technical colleges under its administration, and in 2008 the DTAE’s name officially changed to TCSG.
After fifteen years of service, Breeden retired from the department in 2003. Michael Vollmer, who had previously served under five Georgia governors and was the former president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, was named commissioner. Vollmer announced his resignation in November 2006 and was succeeded by deputy commissioner Ronald Jackson as interim commissioner. In 2008 Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Jackson commissioner.
In 2008 TCSG, to improve efficiencies in college administration and ensure student access to education programs during a downturn in the state economy, announced a series of administrative mergers within the system. The mergers involved the integration of the colleges’ administrations and their local boards of directors, with all campus locations remaining open. The main campus of one college within each merger was designated as the administrative campus, serving as the home of the president’s office, and a provost was assigned to oversee daily operations at the other campus(es).
The first mergers became official in July 2009, when Coosa Valley Technical College and Northwestern Technical College became Georgia Northwestern Technical College; Appalachian Technical College, Chattahoochee Technical College, and North Metro Technical College became Chattahoochee Technical College; West Central Technical College and West Georgia Technical College became West Georgia Technical College; and Southeastern Technical College and Swainsboro Technical College became Southeastern Technical College.
In 2010 Griffin Technical College and Flint River Technical College merged to become Southern Crescent Technical College, and East Central Technical College and Valdosta Technical College combined to become Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. The following year Heart of Georgia Technical College merged with Sandersville Technical College to form Oconee Fall Line Technical College. In 2013 the TCSG merged Middle Georgia Technical College with Central Georgia Technical College; the institution retained the name Central Georgia Technical College.
In fall 2011 the TCSG transitioned from the quarter system to the semester system. In addition to its annual report, the TCSG produces several publications, including Results magazine and Quick Start newsletter.
Between 1944 and 2006 Georgia’s technical college system grew from two to thirty-four institutions and included thirty-one branch campuses and four cooperative programs with University System of Georgia (USG) institutions: Bainbridge State College, Clayton State University, Coastal Georgia Community College, and Dalton State College. (By 2011 the only remaining cooperative program was at Bainbridge State.) Georgia Virtual Technical College (later Georgia Virtual Technical Connection) was created in 1998. In July 2007 Georgia Aviation Technical College in Eastman became part of the University System of Georgia when it merged with Middle Georgia College in Cochran.
The TCSG’s mission regarding technical education is to boost the economic development of the state by providing quality technical training through its network of technical colleges. To carry out its mission, the TCSG assigns each college a service delivery area, which covers a certain number of counties or portions thereof. The service delivery areas delineate the area for which each college is responsible for the delivery of training services based on the business and industry represented.
Admission to Georgia’s technical colleges relies on eligibility and academic criteria: candidates must be at least sixteen years old and possess a high school transcript. Some programs require students to be older and have either a General Education Development (GED) diploma or high school diploma. The occupational programs offered by the technical colleges all require credentials below the baccalaureate degree. Students can earn an associate degree, an expanded program of study that facilitates career mobility and continuing education at the baccalaureate level; a traditional diploma; or a technical certificate of credit, a short-term targeted program that prepares students for specific jobs. Students are not restricted to attending the college located in the service delivery area where they reside. Those entering degree programs are eligible for Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship.
Georgia’s technical colleges offer a wide variety of career-oriented programs that involve high-tech training and specialized skills—including accounting and banking, early childhood care and nursing, and machine tool technology. The programs are often tailored to the state’s specific needs. In response to an increasing shortage of registered nurses in Georgia, for example, the department awarded more than $600,000 in 2006 to Athens Technical College, Columbus Technical College, Northwestern Technical College (later Georgia Northwestern Technical College), Southwest Georgia Technical College (later Southern Regional Technical College), and West Central Technical College (later West Georgia Technical College) to expand their nursing programs.
Georgia’s network of technical colleges participates in such state programs as GAcollege411 and School-to-Work partnerships. Established in 2005, GAcollege411 is an online mentoring system for Georgia’s high school students. In addition to helping students plan, apply, and pay for college, GAcollege411 offers Accel, a program that allows students to pursue postsecondary study at approved colleges and technical colleges while receiving dual high school and college credit. In 2011 more than 5,400 high school students participated in TCSG’s dual enrollment programs. Nearly 98 percent of students involved in dual enrollment programs graduate from high school.
School-to-Work partnerships among business leaders, communities, and educators who address workforce development and quality-of-life issues for specific service delivery areas began in 1998. Georgia’s technical colleges work in collaboration with community and business leaders to address employment needs by offering, for example, occupational and academic training for youth who may be at risk of dropping out of high school, thus contributing to the long-term economic prospects of a specific region and the state as a whole.
Working together with its system of technical colleges, the TCSG’s economic development programs assist businesses and industries with their training needs and supplement technical college instruction. In 2007, largely due to Quick Start, the state’s workforce and training programs were recognized as the best in the nation by Expansion Management magazine. Quick Start creates custom-designed training programs free of charge to qualified companies as a way to attract new industry and business expansion throughout Georgia.
In addition to Quick Start, each of Georgia’s technical colleges offers continuing education programs in an effort to advance professional and career development.
In 1988 Georgia’s Office of Adult Literacy (later Office of Adult Education [OAE]) was moved from the Department of Education to the newly created DTAE. In addition to administering and awarding the GED, which more than 243,000 students received between 2000 and 2012, the OAE facilitates a number of literacy programs in collaboration with other state and local organizations. The OAE’s primary goal is to ensure that every adult in Georgia has an opportunity to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, computation, speaking, and listening.
Collaborative efforts among Georgia’s technical colleges, public school systems, and USG institutions promote and provide adult literacy programs in all 159 counties of the state. In 2012 nearly 78,000 students were served in Georgia’s adult literacy programs, which include the GED preparation classes, Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP), English literacy and citizenship education, and health literacy.
The CLCP is a nonprofit, community-wide collaborative launched in 1990 that confronts problems of funding and reaches adults needing literacy instruction. By 2012 eighty-seven community collaboratives were organized under the program. English literacy and citizenship education programs provide English as a Second Language courses and assist Georgia’s immigrant population with the basic skills needed to navigate governmental, educational, and other institutions.
The health literacy program, developed in 2000, serves as a point-of-entry into the adult education system for citizens who might not otherwise seek help. Free classes, held in community centers, hospitals, and adult literacy centers throughout the state, prepare students to communicate better with health care providers and thus make competent health care decisions. The OAE also offers the Workplace Education Program, which provides basic skills and literacy training necessary to gain employment or to advance in the workplace.