In July 2010 East Central Technical College and Valdosta Technical College consolidated operations to form a new institution called Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. The merger was one of several designed to reduce administrative costs and improve student access to programs within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). The mergers integrated 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).
Ray Perren, a former president of both Valdosta Tech and East Central Tech, was named president of the new college. Lisa Tomberlin, the former interim president and former vice president for adult education at East Central Tech, was named provost.
In 2013 Tina Anderson was appointed president of Wiregrass Georgia Tech.
The administrative campus of Wiregrass Georgia Tech is located in Valdosta, the seat of Lowndes County, and the college also operates the Ben Hill–Irwin campus in Fitzgerald, the Coffee County campus in Douglas, and the Cook County Workforce Development Center in Sparks, as well as an extended campus at Moody Air Force Base and a learning center in Wilcox County.Wiregrass Georgia Tech also offers adult education classes at a center in each county of its service delivery area, which includes Atkinson, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, and Wilcox counties.
As with other technical colleges governed by the TCSG, admission to Wiregrass Georgia Tech relies on eligibility and academic criteria: candidates must be at least sixteen years old (older for some programs). A high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) diploma is required for entry into most programs, except designated diploma and certificate programs. Most diploma and certificate programs require a high school diploma or GED prior to graduation from Wiregrass Georgia Tech. Once all requirements are met, 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.
History of East Central Technical College
East Central Tech’s origins date back to 1970, when 200 students enrolled at the Ben Hill–Irwin Area Vocational Institute in Fitzgerald. Lewis Brinson was the school’s first director. Plans made in 1977 for a $600,000 campus expansion were completed in 1978. In the early 1980s Ben Hill–Irwin Institute began a computer electronics program and expanded its machine shop curriculum through a co-op program with Robins Air Force Base in Houston County. Ed Greene succeeded Brinson as director in 1984.
In the mid-1980s, Ben Hill–Irwin Area Vocational Institute established the first technical school foundation in Georgia, created a joint degree program with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, and changed its name to Ben Hill–Irwin Technical Institute. In 1990 the school transferred from local to state governance and came under the direction of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE; later TCSG).
Expansion continued in the 1990s with the opening of the Charles Harris Learning Center on the main campus in 1994, the opening of the Douglas satellite campus in 1997, and the opening of the Wilcox Lifelong Learning Center in 1998. In 1996 Diane Harper became the third president of the school, and the school’s name changed to East Central Technical Institute to better reflect its service area. In 2000, due to legislation (Georgia House Bill 1187) that allowed technical institutes offering associate degrees to become colleges, the name changed once again, to East Central Technical College. Atkinson County was added to East Central Tech’s service area in 2001, and plans were made to open a learning center in Pearson.
The school’s new technology building opened on the main campus in 2006, the same year in which Ray Perren became the fourth president of East Central Tech. In 2008 Perren accepted the position of assistant commissioner for technical education with the Technical College System of Georgia. E. J. Harris, the former executive vice president at Valdosta Tech, was named interim president.
East Central Tech instituted the state’s only RV service technology and homeland security technology programs. The RV service technology program was one of only a few in the nation approved by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. The school’s commitment to the telecommunications industry resulted in the construction of a state-of-the-art telecommunications training center, which opened on the main campus in 2005. The school’s telecommunications program produced three national winners at SkillsUSA, a showcase of the best career and technical students in the nation.
In response to statewide shortages of qualified health care workers, East Central Tech began offering its practical nursing program on the Coffee County campus in 2005 and on the main campus in 2006. These night programs offered eighty new openings for students seeking a career in nursing. In 2005 East Central Tech’s automotive program was named number one in the state by the Automotive Industry Planning Council, and in 2006, encouraged by the lucrative video game industry, the college implemented a technical certificate of credit in game programming and design.
In spring 2010 East Central Tech’s total enrollment was around 1,500 students.
History of Valdosta Technical College
Valdosta Technical Institute was founded in Valdosta in 1963, opening with four instructional programs and thirty-seven students. James Bridges became president of the school in 1984. In 1988 Valdosta Tech transferred from local to state governance and became part of the newly formed DTAE.
In 2000 the name changed to Valdosta Technical College. Robert M. Abene served as president from 2006 until 2009, when F. D. Toth became interim president. Ray Perren, the former president of East Central Tech, assumed the presidency in July 2009.
Valdosta Tech offered courses in response to job opportunities in its service area, including a game development program to prepare students for careers in the video game industry. The program was featured in Savannah at the 2006 “Taste of the Technical Colleges,” an event that showcases valued programs in technical education.
Economic development programs offered through Valdosta Tech included continuing education, corporate training, and Quick Start, a nationally recognized program that develops training for new and existing industries in Georgia. The college partnered with Quick Start to provide training for such area businesses as Wire Rope Corporation, the largest producer of wire rope in North America.
In spring 2010 the total enrollment at Valdosta Tech was around 3,500 students.