The story of today’s Southeastern Technical College begins in Emanuel County in 1963. That year, Swainsboro Area Vocational Technical School opened, made real through the efforts and support of the local legislators and citizens in the Emanuel County area. The school opened with four programs, seven employees and an enrollment of 32 students.
Located on Kite Road (Ga. Highway 57) in Swainsboro, the school was initially given the responsibility of serving the citizens of 20 counties. This area was one of the largest ever to be served by a technical school in Georgia.
During its first decade, Swainsboro Area Vocational Technical School operated a skills center in Claxton and off-campus classes in the surrounding cities of Dublin, Statesboro, Lyons, and Vidalia. Advisory committees provided program and curriculum suggestions to guide the school in meeting employment needs relevant to job availability.
The school rapidly grew to offer 16 diploma programs and reached capacity on-campus enrollment. In 1978, construction of major additions to the original building increased the physical space to meet an ever-increasing demand for training.
Prior to the passage of the Quality Basic Education (QBE) Act in 1985, Swainsboro Area Vocational Technical School was governed at the state level by the Department of Education through local administration under the Emanuel County Board of Education. The QBE Act provided the beginnings for a framework of a state system of technical institutes. Swainsboro Area Vocational Technical School converted to state governance in 1987 and inaugurated its charter board of directors in July of that year.
That year brought two other major changes. Swainsboro Area Vocational Technical School was renamed Swainsboro Technical Institute, and the Georgia Legislature appropriated $45,000 for the preliminary plans for a technical institute to be located in southeast Georgia.
Through additional appropriations the following year, other state funds, and a Toombs County local option sales tax, total funding invested in the project came to $7,553,000, and construction of Southeastern Technical Institute began in 1988. The Southeastern Technical Institute Foundation was incorporated in 1989.
That year also brought many changes to Swainsboro Technical Institute. The Greater Swainsboro Technical Institute Foundation, Inc. was formed. The responsibility for adult basic skills education was assumed by the state department and technical institutes, and a new Adult Literacy division was added at the school. The newly-opened Child Development Center began providing on-site day care for young children and educational training for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Care and Education program.
Also in 1989, the system implemented curriculum standards which are a nationally known model for post-secondary technical instruction. These standards prompted the State Board of Technical and Adult Education to initiate a guarantee of system graduates. The guarantee provides for the retraining of graduates who cannot demonstrate the competencies specified in the curriculum standards.
October 1, 1990, marked the official opening of Southeastern Technical Institute in Vidalia. Forty-six students enrolled in four diploma programs: Practical Nursing, Information and Office Technology, Accounting, and Cosmetology. An additional 32 students enrolled in Developmental Studies. In March 1991, nine Practical Nursing students graduated in Southeastern Tech's first commencement exercise.
In 1992, Southeastern Tech established a campus in Glennville. After having leased facilities in Glennville for a number of years, on June 14, 1994, the City of Glennville gave Southeastern Tech three buildings and the land on which the campus buildings are situated. Also of significance to the Glennville Campus was the award of a Community Block Development Grant to Tattnall County for the construction of a Technology Center, a facility utilized by Southeastern Technical College for adult literacy training, continuing education, and business and industry training.
Meanwhile, Swainsboro Tech continued to grow. In 1996, construction was completed on the 20,000-square-foot classroom and student services building. This facility houses the health programs, student services offices and the office of the president. Then in 1998, Swainsboro Technical Institute acquired the old Swainsboro High School property adjacent to the campus, renovating one of the buildings on site to house the New Connections and Fatherhood programs.
Around that same time, Southeastern Tech was buying property as well. On February 5, 1998, the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) authorized the purchase of a Vidalia building, leased by the college since 1994, to be used as the college's Economic Development Center. The renovation completed in 2002, and this facility now also houses regional operations for the TCSG's Quick Start program, an organization which serves the training needs of new and expanding industries.
The year 2000 saw another name change for both schools (becoming colleges rather than institutes) as part of Governor Roy Barnes's Education Reform Act. This also allowed Southeastern to offer associate degrees and receive formula-funding based on enrollment from the state of Georgia. More good news: In 2000, Southeastern Tech had a 43 percent increase in enrollment over 1999 and a 257 percent increase in the continuing education department in two years.
And it didn’t end there. Over the next four years, Southeastern Tech grew by leaps and bounds. In 2001 alone, the school acquired 15.92 acres of land in the Toombs County Industrial Park to create a Commercial Truck Driving facility, opened the Reidsville-Tattnall County Adult Literacy Center, began construction on the Medical Technology Building on the main campus, and grew to more than 50 programs in business, health, technical and industrial fields, serving over 1,900 students in credit programs alone and offering online courses through the Georgia Virtual Technical College.
Swainsboro Tech stayed busy, too. Swainsboro Technical College opened its newest facility, the Larry J. (Butch) Parrish Technology Center, in the fall of 2003. This state-of-the-art facility provides space for the Electrical Systems Technology, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forest Technology and Welding and Joining Technology programs and provides offices for the Vice President of Economic Development.
Finally, in late 2008, both schools’ paths were tied together. After the State Board of Technical and Adult Education approved merger strategies proposed by the TCSG, TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson met with the Local Boards of Southeastern Technical College and Swainsboro Technical College to discuss their roles during the merger process. Dr. Ray Perren, Assistant Commissioner of the TCSG, met with the college presidents to prioritize and outline the tasks before them. Southeastern and Swainsboro formed a combined Steering Committee of senior staff from both colleges to lead and manage the merger process.
Southeastern Technical College and Swainsboro Technical College have had a close working relationship since the opening of Southeastern Tech in 1990. In fact, Southeastern Tech was formed from Swainsboro Tech’s service delivery area. The colleges are located only 32 miles apart; therefore, they often have transient students from one another and share many of the same community supporters, business partnerships and resources. They provide more than 15 similar programs, with many of the programs using the same books and instructional materials.
As one educational entity in the communities, the merged college would better serve those communities with stronger partnerships, decreased competition for resources and fundraising, elimination of duplication, and more visibility as a stronger institution. A merged institution would further enhance the programs and services provided to all communities served and broaden the opportunities in many areas.
So, on July 1, 2009, Swainsboro Technical College and Southeastern Technical College officially merged to form the new Southeastern Technical College, which serves Candler, Emanuel, Jenkins, Johnson, Montgomery, Tattnall, Toombs, and Treutlen counties.
Since the merger, both schools have lived up to their combined promise, their efforts helping to increase adult education enrollment across several counties, qualify a number of counties as Certified Literate Communities, and open Georgia’s first regional career academy, the Southeastern Early College & Career Academy in Vidalia.