After recent drops in enrollment, Historically Black Denmark Technical College in South Carolina might be converted into a career center. The plan calls for removing the technical college from the state technical college system and turning it into a regional career center for both high school students and adults seeking an industry certificate.
Denmark Technical College was established by a 1947 state law as a trade school for Black South Carolinians. It became part of the statewide technical college system in 1969 and primarily serves residents of rural Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties. Recently, the state tried to boost interest in the college by offering a free two-year degree or technical certificate to high school students. However, despite this effort, the college’s enrollment has dropped to just 400 students, down from 2,300 students 10 years ago. This summer, the college will be operating in the red and any shortfall will have to come from the budgets of the other 15 technical colleges in South Carolina.
The new plan suggests turning the college into a career center where students and adults can earn technical certificates. Many of the college’s existing programs, such as welding and plumbing would continue and other programs such as brick masonry, carpentry, flight school, and demolition would be added. Some of the campus’ run-down buildings would be used by students training for hazmat and demolition jobs.
However, there are many that oppose shutting down the historically Black college. Members of South Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus recently met with Denmark Technical administrators to oppose the new plans. The opponents argue that college, which employs over 70 people, is both a source of pride and an economic driver for the local community.
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), who co-sponsored the new proposal, believes that it is the only way to keep the institution from completing disappearing.
“This business about closing the school is just totally inaccurate. The school will cease to operate as part of the technical system, but the school will not close,” said Cobb-Hunter. “I’m trying to avert what would be a total disaster if the school closed.”
She continued, “I’m more concerned about keeping the educational opportunities this facility will offer available than I am about keeping somebody’s job as president or vice president and an HBCU designation.”