"Our mission is to place people in high-wage, high-skilled jobs," says Dixon Bailey, the vice president of workforce development at TSTC. "We periodically take review and look at our program mix, and we're making sure that we're still committed to our mission. And that had a lot to do with this decision."
TSTC is a state-supported college that receives approximately the same amount of state-funding that any other two-year college annually receives. Bailey says the flight school funding is another reason for its closure.
"Part of our jobs as administrators is to make sure that we're giving taxpayers the best bang for their buck."
Baily admits the program has had steady enrollment over the years, and says exceptional pilots have received training at the flight school. But he says despite the program's good record, the choices of majority of its graduates do not line up with the mission of the program nor the college.
"What we found is traditionally, the majority of the students are coming to the program to get their own private pilot license. They're really not using that certification to go out and get a job, which is what we promote at TSTC."
The announcement of the school's closure comes at a time during which a vast majority of veteran pilots are retiring, and there is a need for new pilots trained to take over in their place.
Currently, about 20 students are enrolled in the TSTC pilot training program. They now have less than three months to complete their training if they wish to receive their certificate from the program.
"What we hope is that, with the students that we currently have in the program, all the way to April 30th, our students get all their flight hours in," explains Bailey. "If not, we're committed to help them find another flight school where they can transfer their hours."
Bailey says the college also has plans for the seven flight instructors who will lose their jobs at the school once it closes.
"Whenever we shut a program down, we try to look at our human resources to see where they can fit within the college. That's our first priority, to see if we can reallocate positions that have value at other places in the college."
The TSTC airplane maintenance school, which is also located at Abilene Regional Airport, will remain in operation. Bailey says the aircraft currently used in the pilot program will be reallocated to the maintenance program come April.
When the TSTC pilot training program shuts down, Elmdale Airpark will be the only active training pilot facility in Abilene.