"We knew there would be questions and even some confusion," said CTC President Sanford Chandler in a press release. "We've been preparing for this for more than a year, but you still know that there are going to be questions and concerns when you go through a change this big. The thing we have to remember is that our students are prepared to learn and our faculty is ready to teach. That's the one thing that hasn't changed."
Environmental Horticulture instructor Bejie Herrin said the field promises growing job opportunities for those with an affinity for gardening, yard care and design.
"We have people who want to have their own business in what would be termed the 'green industry,' and we also have people who want to work for some of the larger companies, and there are several large companies in the area," Herrin said.
She said examples of job opportunities range from managing a landscaping team to residential and garden design.
"If you're doing landscaping you use native plants and pest management practices and use integrated pest management in taking care of people's lawns, so it's all rolled into one process so you take care of the Earth in the best way possible," Herrin said.
Instructor John Hatfield teaches landscaping and said the program works to place students in positions once they complete either the degree, certificate or diploma horticulture programs.
"The goal of this [landscaping] course is for our designers to work in design build firms and garden centers mainly doing plant design," Hatfield said. "I go to probably 15 to 20 different companies a year in person, talk with the owners, meet the employees, talk about educational opportunities [at CTC] and do direct recruiting.
"...We are very focused on jobs, and even when we conceive the programs we make sure there are jobs in that field. We have a lot of interest in production, but we don't push production because there just aren't a lot of jobs in it. We have production classes and we do put a few graduates out there in production, but landscape design field, landscape maintenance, landscape construction, landscape management, those areas are thriving and so we follow the work and we follow the jobs."
Herrin said classes approach the myriad of potential scenarios one might face in the industry.
"We also deal with urban landscape issues and I had a class that built a green roof dog house, and that's a green industry thing because you can save heating and cooling costs on homes if you have green roofs on them," Herrin said.
She said entry-level positions begin at $23,000 to $25,000 and that the program allows students to work with different jobs in the field through the individual classes.
"They can choose their passion, but they can also get a well rounded general horticulture education."
Melinda Golgan, 22, is earning her horticulture degree and plans to carry on her family's local tree service business.
"I want to become a certified arborist ... and basically you can do consults for people where you look at their trees and tell them what's wrong with them," Golgan said. "I'd also like to do designs for people and tree removal."
In addition to the change from 10-week quarters to 15-week semesters, students this year are facing cuts to HOPE funding, with most students paying about $60 of the $75 fee per credit hour. Federal Pell Grant funding will not change this year and students can receive up to $5,550 to be split evenly among the semesters.
For more information on CTC, visit www.chattahoocheetech.edu.