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News Dr. Don Tomas advocates for SCC expansion

Southwestern Community College President Dr. Don Tomas spoke to Franklin Aldermen about expanding the college.SCC president speaks to Town Aldermen about expanding Macon Campus

Southwestern Community College (SCC) is looking to expand and according to President Don Tomas, the Macon County campus is just the place for targeted growth.

Tomas spoke to the Franklin Board of Aldermen during Tuesday night's meeting to inform them that SCC is looking to expand and due to a 7.3 percent increase in the number of students attending SCC from Macon County, the Cecil Groves Macon Campus is in need of expansion.

The Macon Campus sits on a 20-acre site on Siler Farm Road just south of Franklin. With the groundbreaking for the building held in the fall of 2005, the campus has since developed into a high-tech, state-of-the-art campus, offering technology enhanced learning with computer laboratories, virtual and interactive classrooms, and a wireless environment.

“This year we have seen a 7.3 percent growth in the headcount for Macon County students and a two percent increase in the number of course hours those students are taking,” explained Tomas. “Out of the total number of students enrolled at Southwestern, 813 are from Macon County and 515 attend classes at the Groves Center. We have already outgrown the Groves building and are currently in the process of creating a master plan of what the expansion here would look like.”

According to Tomas, SCC is currently working to secure funding from grants to help grow programs and work on expanding the school. “By statute, it is the county's responsibility to maintain the education facilities in the community, so we will be talking to them as well, but we wanted you to be aware of the direction we are heading in,” said Tomas. “We are looking at federal and grant money through the Department of Labor, the Golden Leaf Foundation and Duke Energy to help grow our school.”

Southwestern Community College's Macon Campus has several curriculum programs for students to choose from. Students are afforded the opportunity for an AA Degree and college transfer credits, Criminal Justice AAS Degree, Emergency Medical Science, Human Services Technology and a substance abuse certificate, Pre-Health Science Track and courses to allow students to receive their Real Estate Certificate.

Franklin Mayor Joe Collins expressed his support for SCC and the expansion. “I think a couple of us up here are products of SCC or rather STC [Southwestern Technical College],” said Collins. “What people may not realize is people who attend community colleges end up getting jobs and in the end, pay more taxes for the town.”

Southwestern Community College has been ranked one of the Top 10 community colleges in the nation for the past several years and has recently been one of the four colleges in the state out of the 58 community colleges to receive the title of an “exceptional” institute.

Programs housed in SCC are unlike many others around the country. SCC is one of 13 schools in the nation to have training courses for the National Park Service and according to Tomas, due to budget cuts, those programs may soon be cut to only four in the nation and he is confident SCC will retain their program.

“That program alone does a lot for the local economy because we have students from Alaska and Hawaii and all over who come here to take that course,” said Tomas. “In fact, 90 percent of our graduates stay in the region and become active members of our society.”

SCC also works with local industries to provide workforce training. One of their newest courses, the casino dealer course, is a 7-8 week course that trains students on the ins and outs of card dealing. For $175, participants can take the course and receive training needed to gain employment from Harrah's Cherokee Casino.

SCC is also home to the nation's first undergraduate Wilderness Therapy program. Earlier this year, SCC held the institute's first basic school resource officer program for area schools and the first Firefighter Academy to train local emergency personnel.

In addition to the innovative programs that SCC provides to the community, the school also works closely to ensure that students can afford a secondary education. According to Tomas, 60 percent of the students who attend SCC receive financial aid of some kind. SCC also works directly with local school districts through the New Century Scholar Program to provide scholarships for students who qualify.


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