Affordability, Business Needs Drive Pulaski Tech Growth

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Jun. 21, 2010 12:00 am  

From its early years as a modest vocational school downtown, Pulaski Technical College has grown to become a campus with seven locations, 91 degrees and certificates, 364 full-time faculty and staff and more than 11,000 students.

Its story illustrates the role that technical and community colleges play in being flexible and responsive in meeting the educational needs of a community and the economic needs of the region's businesses.

"We continue to try to keep the pulse of the local economy and keep the pulse of our local industry - existing and new ones coming in - to make sure that we're always at the table with them to offer what they need to make sure that they can stay competitive," said Dan F. Bakke, president of Pulaski Tech.

In 2000, the college's enrollment was a shade more than 4,300. This spring, the school had nearly tripled to 11,167 students.

"We've never grown for growth's sake," said Tim Jones, director of public relations and marketing.

Instead, the school has expanded in response to a need for affordable higher education and because the future of the state's economy depends on having a skilled work force.

In the last 10 years, the college has undertaken several major expansions and building projects, totaling more than $57 million.

It also has added courses, most recently an entrepreneurship program and a green building program, which starts in August and will certify construction workers of varying skill levels in sustainable building practices.

But along with the growth and new construction, the school also deals with challenges, Jones said.

Many at Pulaski Tech are the first in their families to attend college.

Because the school has open enrollment, and therefore anyone can get in, Pulaski Tech offers its own academic placement test. A good number of students must take remedial development courses to ensure they're prepared for college-level work, he said.

That's the first obstacle for many students, but it isn't the last.



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