Big enrollment increase at Northcentral Technical College

May 25, 2012

From Opinion: “NTC enrollment boost a good sign for central Wisconsin” — College enrollment is up nationwide, but the increase at Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College is especially striking. The number of students enrolled in one-year or two-year programs at NTC nearly doubled between 2008 and 2011, going from 3,149 students to 6,070.

That’s a stunning number. And it likely speaks to the long-term economic health of our region.

Many factors are driving enrollment increases. Without a doubt one of these is the tough economy over the past several years, which has led displaced workers to seek more schooling and has discouraged others from trying to strike out into the job market.

But there’s more to it than that. People recognize that the economy is changing and that increasingly it’s necessary not only to extend your education beyond the high-school level but also to be prepared for lifelong learning and training.

At the same time, it’s our observation that respect for technical education programs seems to be on the rise. It’s nothing against traditional liberal education, which remains extremely valuable, to say that for many people, education in a trade or technical school program is a better fit and one that offers them strong, lifelong employment opportunities. That’s true of nursing programs, various manufacturing programs and many more.

This is a positive development, and we’re glad people see technical school as a legitimate higher-education opportunity.

Still, these trends alone would not explain the absolutely dramatic growth at the Wausau-based technical college if it weren’t for one other major factor: dynamic leadership from NTC President Lori Weyers.

The school has actively gone to employers to find out what skills they need from workers and what programs would make students a good fit for the jobs they have available. It has actively made room for alternative schedules and has set up programs across the sprawling area of its coverage.

Students benefit from that type of flexibility. They also benefit from program offerings tailored to real-world skills they’ll need in the workplace.

There is no realistic way for the economy to grow in the long term without a strong base of education. In this light, the increase in enrollment in local higher-ed programs is a very good thing.


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