Inside Midlands Technical College: Insights from MTC President Dr. Ronald L. Rhames

Mollee D. Harper

Monday, May 8th, 2017

As thousands of college students across the Midlands prepare to graduate in the next few weeks, some are more ready than others to immediately go to work or continue their education. Many of these well- prepared students will be graduates of Midlands Technical College.

Metro Columbia CEO visited with the president of Midlands Technical College, Dr. Ronald L. Rhames. During our time together, Dr. Rhames beamed with pride as he spoke about MTC’s passion for providing higher education with real value to students; for preparing students for four-year and advanced degrees; and for giving students hands-on, first-class skills training to fill the in-demand jobs – all at a great value for students, parents, and taxpayers. 
 
“This week, MTC graduated one of its largest classes in its history. More than 2,500 academic degrees, diplomas, and certificates were awarded to students who will be equipped to go to work almost immediately in some of the most in-demand jobs such as business, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare,” said Rhames.

In March 2015, Dr. Rhames was named the sixth president of Midlands Technical College, where he has been employed since 1990. He is the first alumnus president of MTC, and he is the first person to graduate from a South Carolina technical college and later become its president.

“I remember when I walked across the MTC graduation stage as a student in 1978,” reflected Rhames. “Now as president, I have the privilege to congratulate a new class of graduates who have bright futures and an abundance of opportunities for success, happiness, and the ability to make a difference.”

Rhames said “Midlands Technical College is focused on three key initiatives, growing the college, making lives better, and leveraging goodwill.”

He explained, “MTC is planning for growth, giving as many students as possible the opportunity to move into in-demand jobs or prepare for advanced degrees. In this pursuit, we will rely on the goodwill and relationships the college has steadily developed over the past 40 years so that we can make lives better for years to come.”

“In addition to having the academic skills to succeed at another institution or the skills and experience to step into a good-paying job, MTC students enjoy other advantages. Many will graduate without the crippling debt that affects so many people who start their post-college careers. In fact, students who attend MTC instead of more expensive colleges can save up to $40,000 per year.”

“The MTC pathway is critical because of the price of education today,” said Rhames. “Our students can get an associate degree and a top-quality education at a great value by starting with MTC. By attending a two-year college first, students can really minimize the impact of college-related debt.”

“Two-year graduates can start their lives faster, take care of their families easier, and become taxpayers sooner. Then, if they decide to transfer to a four-year college, we help them with that transition,” Rhames added.

A Midlands Technical College education provides real value to students in terms of cost, preparation for four-year and advanced degrees, and in-demand job skills. In some cases, MTC works directly with employers across the Midlands to tailor courses and training in the specific skills required for highly technical jobs.

“We have worked with the S.C. Department of Commerce, local economic developers, and our legislators on the local workforce needs and what we can do to develop students to meet those needs. We also tailor programs to meet specific needs. Our partnerships are very critical to the state when attracting industry,” said Rhames.

MTC is also a very real asset to the Midlands and the state with an economic impact of more than $835 million per year. The college helps create a trained, skilled workforce for Midlands employers, and its graduates expand the state’s economic base through higher incomes and lifetime earnings.

“We believe we provide a significant contribution to the three-county area we serve,” said Rhames. “An economic study showed that the college has almost a billion-dollar economic impact on the Midlands of South Carolina. We are launching a major fundraising campaign by asking the beneficiaries of MTC to invest in the college. The resources raised will ensure we are sustainable going forward and will enable us to provide more students with pathways to success.”   

Rhames said, “MTC also contributes to the community by providing cultural and social enrichment. The Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College’s Harbison Campus hosts award-winning, international tours of dance, music, theatre, comedy, variety acts, and scholars. It offers programs and productions that encourage reflection, examination, and discovery.”

“We are very proud of our Harbison Theatre and the artistic quality of life it is bringing to the Midlands,” he said. “More than 20,000 people visit Harbison Theatre at MTC each year to see some of the best artists worldwide perform in the 400 seat, state-of-the-art, intimate venue.”

With six campuses throughout the Midlands, Rhames said the Midlands is packed with MTC graduates, many who have continued on to become lawyers, bankers, doctors, dentists, nurses, technicians, and more in the community.  

“We just had more than 2,200 academic students graduate,” said Rhames. “And we have also awarded more than 2,000 training certificates in corporate and continuing education.  That translates to more than 4,000 people ready for the workforce.”

“One of the things we say at MTC is you can get anywhere from here,” said Rhames. “Our graduates are doing just that. They are changing the landscape by earning and providing for their families with two-year degrees from Midlands Technical College.”