While many industries and businesses are suffering during the economic downturn, many colleges are seeing significant growth.

Coosa Valley Technical College, which will merge in July with Northwest Technical College to become Georgia Northwestern Technical College, has seen an enrollment increase of 19.8 percent from Spring 2008 to Spring 2009.

“It’s a huge increase and the largest single increase we’ve had,” said CVTC President Craig McDaniel. “When people lose their jobs, they have a tendency to go back to school. … Technical college is really the fast-track to the job market.”

McDaniel said that NTC is also reporting an increase of at least 15 percent from last year.

About 40 percent of the enrollment has been in the health occupation area, he said.

Both Georgia Highlands and Shorter colleges have had increases of just over 10 percent from last year.

“This is the largest spring enrollment we’ve had in the history of the school,” said Shorter College President Harold Newman.

He attributed Shorter’s growth to the new programs the college offers, including the nursing program.

“I think we’re working a lot harder and offering a lot more support in our retention efforts,” said Newman. “I think it (enrollment) reflects the confidence people have in our academic quality.”

GHC President Randy Pierce echoed the sentiment that adding new programs was a reason for growth. GHC recently announced partnerships with Kennesaw State University in Dallas and the University of West Georgia in Douglasville to offer smoother transitions into four-year degree programs.

“We’re enlarging our service area to try and reach out to more and more students that would benefit from two years of college education,” said Pierce.

“You can’t stop with a high school diploma,” Pierce added. “If you really want a job that is going to afford you the kind of economic stability and quality of life you want, than you’re going to have to get some form of higher education.”

Enrollment at Berry College is down 0.05 percent from last spring.

“There is no question that the state of the economy is going to influence enrollment at every institution,” said Gary Waters, vice president for enrollment management. “Berry has been working with families on an individual basis, taking into account their unique circumstances.”

The college plans to initiate some new scholarship programs in the future, including the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, which allows students to work on campus and graduate debt-free.

“We recognize that in the immediate future there are a number of unknowns given the state of the economy, but we have great confidence in the longterm outlook for the enrollment in the college,” said Waters.