Four new course offerings at Southeast Arkansas College were approved by its Board of Trustees during as meetilng Wednesday.

The four, which will begin either in the spring or fall of 2020 will be cybersecurity, hospitality management, certified laboratory technician and construction management.

Steven Bloomberg, the president of SEARK said the school will be the first campus in the state to offer cybersecurity and the first to offer a degree. He said cybersecurity is one othe fasting growing occupations in the United States.

Gina Teel, who is the acting Vice-president for Academic Affairs at SEARK that the course came as a result of requests from business and industry. She said the school has already lined up an instructor and said a large locak business, whom she declined to identify, is looking at creating an internship program.

Teel said that the course in hospitality management ties in to the construction of the Saracen Casino and Resort, which will be hiring a number of employees. She said the school is also looking to develop a working agreement with other hospitality businesses in Southeast Arkansas to help graduates find employment in the hospitality industry.

Regarding the Certified Laboratory Technician course, Teel said the director of the lab at Jefferson Regional needs certified technicians but has had difficulty in finding them locally, making it necessary to recruit technicians from other countries. She said as work visa’s for those persons have become more difficult to obtain.

In addition to the hospital, Teel said SEARK would pursue a partnership with the National Center for Toxicological Research (N.C.T.R.) located at the arsenal, and said other industries, like Evergreen Packaging also use lab technicians.

Board president Ken Johnson, who is the manager of Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility said his utility also used lab technicians.

The final new course offering will be construction technology, which also came about after requests from industries.

Bloomberg reported that enrollment for the fall semester increased by 12.8 percent compared to the enrollment in the Fall of 2018. There were 1,342 students enrolled this fall compared to 1,189 in 2018. The increase ends a nine-year decline and Bloomberg said the fall enrollment could see an additional jump when registration for the semester;s second eight-week courses are completed.

“I believe we’ve turned the tide,” he said. “When you move the numbers four to five percent that’s good but over 10 percent is almost unheard of.”

Also, Bloomberg said F.T.E. (full time equivalency) numbers and semester credit hours were up more than 10 percent, meaning not only do we have more students but they’s taking more classes.”

He attributed some of the increase to the collaboration between SEARK and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff which allows SEARK students to work on their bachelor’s degree, taking classes at both schools. After starting the program with one student, Bloomberg sad there are currently 39 enrolled.

In addition, many high school students who are enrolled in classes at the Jefferson Area Technical Career Center which is located on the SEARK campus are also taking at least one course, and sometimes as many as three.

The board also welcomed Pine Bluff Fire and Emergeny Services Chief Shauwn Howell, who was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, replacing Al Lowry. The board voted to elect Rob Cheatwood vice-chairman, filling the position Lowry previously was elected to.