About five per cent of enrolments in free TAFE courses in Victoria have been at GOTAFE alone, with chief executive Travis Heeney calling the initiative a boon for regional communities.
More than 950 students have enrolled in the 40-plus free courses being offered through GOTAFE, and the statewide count was exceeding 19,000 at the end of June.
The next students studying at no cost - an initiative announced in last year's state budget - begin at GOTAFE next week.
Mr Heeney said for some courses, those students accounted for 75 per cent of enrolments.
"We expect that number to continue to rise this year and in 2020, when more courses will be added," he said.
"For many potential students in our region, the barriers to education are quite significant because they either cannot afford to pay for a course, or they can't afford the cost of travelling to another location to study.
"In an area with some of the state's highest youth unemployment rates, our challenge is to improve the skills and lives of our regional population.
"To do that we must remove as many barriers to education as possible, and Free TAFE is playing a major role."
The Age this week reported of staff shortages and training institutions being unable to keep up with demand as a result of the initiative, but Mr Heeney said it "had been a huge success for GOTAFE and its region".
He said 20 new trainers had been hired and all trainers were being covered to undertake a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
"Some of our nursing courses are at capacity, but we've introduced new classes to the schedule," Mr Heeney said.
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"Prior to Free TAFE we struggled to get enough enrolments in some courses, including accounting, and courses such as cyber security were not on our radar.
"Free TAFE has meant these courses have become a reality, and we've been able to significantly broaden our course offerings.
"By training local people we improve the likelihood of them staying in the region, which has economic and social benefits for the area and the community."
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