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Enrollment surges at ATCC

While the economy is still less than lucrative these days, the Alexandria Technical and Community College is thriving.

In fact, it is on track to have the largest enrollment it has seen in its 50-year history.

Last year, ATCC's enrollment was the largest ever at more than 4,000 students attending the Alexandria school.

That was about 600 to 700 more students than the college has ever had, according to ATCC President Kevin Kopischke.

"That's a huge number," Kopischke said in an interview last Thursday.

This year's enrollment, although the official numbers aren't in yet, is almost exactly where it was at last year.

Additionally, Kopischke noted that for the first time ever, there was a larger enrollment in the spring of this year than for the fall. And, the enrollment for summer session was up as well, about 16 percent, he said.

When the college opened 50 years ago, there were three programs offered and 23 students.

Besides a flourishing enrollment, Kopischke shared other great news about the college, which recently changed from being solely a technical college to being a technical and community college.

Just recently, Kopischke learned that ATCC was ranked in the top 10 for Washington Monthly's America's 50 best community colleges.

ATCC came in at number eight - out of 650 community colleges - in the ranking list, which was based on measures such as student-facility interaction, support for learning, graduation rates, academic challenge, student effort and active and collaborative learning.

"We're pretty pumped and pleased about this," Kopischke said. He explained that he didn't even know about the ranking until someone at the school saw the list and told him about it.

The rankings are based on data provided by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, established by the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin and graduation data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Kopischke said ATCC has ranked high in similar data before and noted that the college has had the highest ranking for retention and graduation rates for the last four years from Minnesota Measures.

"We're pretty proud of that," he said. "Data has always suggested we have high retention rates and that's because of our fabulous faculty and our staff."

ATCC has more than 525,000 square feet of instructional space, he noted.

That space is used for the 48 programs currently offered at the school. One new program Kopischke commented on was a new energy technician program that is a collaborative effort among nine colleges. It is the first of its kind for ATCC and is based on a new model, which includes online classes.

The new program and new model for learning, according to Kopischke, defines the direction of where the college is heading for the next generation of students, which is based on more online learning opportunities.

"We're fortunate to be able to offer that here," he said.

Other exciting news for the school is that it's able to offer more customized training, which is a great benefit for the business and industrial world.

Kopischke said there are basically two types of students - one who needs normal schooling before getting a job and one who needs on-the-job training or upgrading.

Customized training serves 102 businesses and more than 4,600 students.

Classes could include a six-hour training course for employees who use computer aided drafting and design (CADD) or maybe an employee working in the medical field.

The Customized Training Center offers both continuing education and contract training options.

"Customized training is a big part of the college," said Kopischke.

For more information about the college, visit its website at