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MTI expecting high enrollment again

Mitchell Technical Institute expects to see its enrollment near its record-high totals from a year ago when school starts next month.

MTI President Greg Von Wald told the Mitchell Board of Education Monday that 1,054 students have signed up for classes this fall, down just three students from the same point in 2013.

That figure is expected to go up before the start of the fall semester on Aug. 26 because it does not include farm business management students or students taking online courses, which have a propensity to fill up later.

"We expect enrollment to be about the same as it was last year, quite frankly," Von Wald said. "Overall nationally, two-year schools have dropped 2.7 percent in enrollment this year, so keeping our nose above water is a good thing."

The school had 1,227 students last year, which was a school record. It also had its largest class of first-year students at 648.

The cost of MTI will go up slightly, Von Wald said. While the tuition across the state has been frozen at $104 per credit hour, fees will go up $4. Von Wald said the average student who takes 30 credits this school year will pay about $5,500 in tuition and fees, up from $5,370 a year ago. The $4 fee increase covers facilities and campus maintenance and repair.

Von Wald said the school's wind technology program is likely to see a decrease in participation this fall, in part because of the production tax credit, which expired in 2013 and has provided a 2.3 cent per kilowatt hour tax break for wind production since 1992.

Von Wald has heard the claim that there is no jobs in wind technology, but he said there are "plenty of jobs in wind" for those people who have operations and maintenance skills.

Culinary arts and construction programs are the other offerings that are down, according to MTI's president.

On the other side, he said accounting and business management enrollments have more than doubled last year's numbers, and farm power technology enrollees have also increased. The school's heating, ventilation and air conditioning and welding program -- which has been increased to 40 spots -- are also rising in participation. MTI has maxed out its precision agriculture program for the first time.

"The ag community has figured out that precision is a good thing, so the kids have really gotten in," he said.

Von Wald said he expects to see at least five students in the ButlerEdge program, which is partnership with the Butler Machinery Co. and is being offered for the first time this fall. Those students will be offered an associate of applied science degree and will receive teaching on campus and at a Butler location. Those students will be paid for their work while in the program and the students will begin full-time work with Butler once they graduate.

"The goal was to get five kids in that program this year and we're going to make that goal this year," he said.