It’s been well reported in recent years that a college education, or, at a minimum, some career-specific training after high school is going to become mandatory for the kinds of jobs that pay a livable wage.
To a large extent, this is already the case, and study after study indicates that this trend is only going to speed up.
That’s one reason the Lottery Tuition Assistance (LTA) program, made possible by South Carolina voters more than a decade ago, is so vital. LTA ensures that this training remains accessible to our citizens, and that opportunity is still within reach for those with the drive to take hold of it.
At PTC, and at other technical colleges around the state, we serve the most demographically diverse and most representative sample of our region’s population. Our students come from all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, and are a reflection of the communities we serve.
And for many of these students and families, LTA funding provides a lifeline—one that, in many cases, makes all the difference.
Edgefield native Jonathan Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and worked in a variety of non-related jobs after graduation. “I spent 11 years bouncing around while my future waited on me to pursue a career in health care,” he said. He decided he was ready for a better career and enrolled in the radiologic technology program at Piedmont Tech. Lottery Tuition Assistance helped make Jonathan’s dream possible.
Sonia Gomez is a first-generation Mexican-American and proud that she will become the first member of her family to graduate from college. Sonia knew she’d need an education to give her the future she wanted. When she chose to take that step, she chose Piedmont Technical College, knowing that this institution offers the region’s best value in higher education, and the most direct path to a career in her chosen field. LTA helped make her decision to get a college education attainable.
Caleb Boatwright likes working with his hands and took some automotive classes at the G. Frank Russell Career Center, but found that his real interest was in working as a machinist. He looked to Piedmont Tech and the Dual Enrollment program to make his dream a reality. Caleb will complete both the Machine Tool program and earn his high school diploma this spring—and he’s already been hired by a local employer in his field. LTA helped make Caleb’s accomplishment a reality.
Although each of these students comes from a different walk of life, all three share a common story: they wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families. They are just three of more than 2500 students each year at Piedmont Technical College whose stories are made possible by Lottery Tuition Assistance.
The story is much the same across South Carolina, where nearly 30 percent of technical college students rely on Lottery Tuition Assistance to achieve their academic and career goals. In fact, since its inception more than ten years ago, more than 300,000 students have benefitted from this funding.
These are our future nurses and health care providers, our future police and sheriff’s officers, the technicians that keep our manufacturers in working order and the engines of commerce running in our communities.
So it’s critically important for the future of our region, and our state as a whole, that this funding continues.
But its continued availability cannot be taken for granted. Just this past year, funding fell short in the second half of the year, resulting in a decrease of the maximum LTA award. This funding cannot be allowed to continue to decline. Instead, we need to make sure that this funding remains available to those who need it, and that it grows.
The future of our region and state depends on ensuring that our citizens continue to have ready access to the education they need to build better lives, and that our businesses have access to a strong workforce to continue to thrive.
On behalf of the college, I’d like to publicly express our appreciation to our State’s elected officials for the vision to create the Lottery Tuition Assistance program and for their continued support of it.
And we ask anyone who’s received LTA in the past to thank their legislators for the assistance this important program has provided, and to let them know personally how the support has impacted their lives.
It’s time to pay it forward. Let’s all make sure this life-changing program remains healthy for generations to come.
Dr. L. Ray Brooks is the President of Piedmont Technical College.