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Parker says adult literacy is key to area’s future

Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker delivered his annual state of the college address Tuesday. He says solving the problems of structural unemployment and adult literacy are keys to the region’s future.

Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker delivered his annual state of the college address Tuesday. He says solving the problems of structural unemployment and adult literacy are keys to the region’s future.

ALBANY — For the second consecutive year, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker used his annual state of the college address to hammer home his concerns about his two biggest areas of concern for the region — structural unemployment and adult literacy.

“Structural unemployment and adult literacy are major concerns in our seven-county SDA (service delivery area),” Parker said Tuesday. “Structural unemployment occurs when employers have positions to fill but the labor force lacks the skills to be hired for those available positions. Then when we figure in that an average of just 62 percent of adults in the region are functionally literate, we have a problem.

Parker said the push toward adult literacy is even more important now since the state last year began enforcing rules that prohibit students without high school diplomas or GEDs from getting into school.

“In the past, we could educate students in dual enrollment or working toward a GED and they would qualify for financial aid. We can’t do that anymore, so we have to figure out what is the new ‘normal’ for enrollment,” said Parker. “Plus more of our funding is based on a new formula with more emphasis being placed on our graduation rates.”

The ATC president said the new normal will entail helping adults obtain their GEDs and getting them into school.

“Generally, if an individual gives us two years of their time, the outcome is good,” he said. “More and more, GED graduates have a tendency to go on to college. And that benefits every college in our SDA. Adult education is one of our most important programs because we are finding that we aren’t getting as many high school students as we need.”

Parker added that higher education in Georgia is undergoing a transition.

“We understand that we are changing philosophies in Georgia in regard to higher education,” Parker said. “It’s no longer all about enrollment. The new outcome based funding model will be based on placement, graduation, square footage and FTE (full time equivalent) numbers. We have actually had a small uptick in full-time students and that’s good because those students are more likely to graduate than part-time students.

“We are an average size school as far as square footage and enrollment, but we’ve either led or finished second in the state in graduation and placement numbers for the past four years.”

Parker said the college is also concentrating on younger students by pushing dual enrollment programs that have seen 90 area high school students dually enrolled over the past year.