Enrollment on the Rise for Region 8 Technical College

September 21, 2006 - Posted at 4:52 p.m. CDT

POCAHONTAS, AR -- The thirst for knowledge is driving more students to enroll in two and four year colleges and universities.  Arkansas State saw its fall enrollment number increase by over 5%, but another school in Northeastern Arkansas is growing even faster. Like the minds of its students, Black River Technical College in Pocahontas is growing at an astounding rate of 12%.

"When we became a technical college in 1991, we had 402 students so that would give you an idea of how much growth has occurred," said Dr. Mike Sullens, Vice President of Student Services, "Now we are sitting with record enrollment of 1920."

The 12% increase wasn't unexpected.  That's because over the past five years, the school has seen enrollment jump more than 450 students and they think in coming years that trend should continue.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we got up to 2,200 or 2,300 students by the fall term," said Dr. Sullens.

While the student body is growing, the school is working overtime to keep up.  New buildings are under construction and school officials hope the facilities will keep up with the growing demand for secondary education.

"We have a lot of people starting to put more value into education," said Dr. Sullens, "Once again because of the plant closing and business shutdown."

The school believes students are selecting BRTC in part because the two year programs allow quicker entry into higher paying job fields.

"A lot of it is the medical field right now. Of course we offer the practical nursing, respiratory care, and the dietetics," said Dr. Sullens.

In addition to medical programs, a number of students are registered in auto body, auto service, aviation and electrical career programs.

The growth at BRTC isn't just limited to Pocahontas. The Paragould campus saw enrollment increase this year by over 23%.