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State debates combining college systems

Linking two-year, tech schools would let regents focus on longer programs

POSTED: January 7, 2009 12:08 a.m.

A panel appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to make recommendations on the future of the state’s education system has recommended that Georgia’s two-year colleges be moved from the Board of Regents to the technical college system.

The plan would not include Gainesville State College, which already offers a limited number of four-year degrees.

The panel, headed by former University of Georgia President Charles Knapp and Dean Alford, a former state legislator and member of the technical college system board, issued its report in December.

The report contends that separating the two-year schools would allow the university system of Georgia to focus on research, four-year and graduate degree programs.

In addition to the proposed consolidation of two-year and technical colleges, the report contends the state should adopt a definition of "ready" as no remediation needed for graduating high school students entering college or going to work. Studies are cited showing that skills for today’s work force and college entry are similar.

Mike Light, a spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia, said some initial discussions are under way between his agency and the regents.

"Our commissioner is talking with the folks over at the university system and trying to establish some strategies and plans that we’ll need to put in place to begin consideration of implementation of the recommendations," Light said.

Commissioner Ron Jackson, who heads the technical college system, was a member of the study panel that issued the report.

The two college systems differ in a number of ways, including their annual scheduling of classes and the tenure of faculty. Technical college faculty are not offered tenure, a seniority system granted to university system professors after a specified time of service.

Martha Nesbitt, president of Gainesville State College, said Tuesday that her institution has joined several former two-year colleges, including Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College at Tifton, Dalton State College, College of Coastal Georgia, Gordon College at Barnesville, Macon State College and Middle Georgia College at Cochran, in now offering four-year degrees.

The remaining two-year colleges are Atlanta Metropolitan College, Bainbridge College, Darton College at Albany, East Georgia College at Swainsboro, Georgia Highlands College at Rome, Georgia Perimeter College in DeKalb County, South Georgia College at Douglas and Waycross College.

The report recommends that the state explore public/private partnerships to fund demonstration sites across the state to determine practical implications of the proposed changes.

Last year, the technical college system announced the merger of several colleges within the system in a cost-cutting move. Those mergers have been met with opposition in some communities where it was felt that the local identity of the technical college was being lost.

Lanier Technical College was not among those included in the merger. The college presently operates campuses in Oakwood, Cumming, Commerce, Dawsonville and Winder.

Mike Moye, president of Lanier Tech, said Tuesday he was aware of the report but deferred to Light for comment from the state.

The report was presented to Perdue. It is not known if the governor will include any of the recommendations when he makes his budget proposal to the legislature next week.



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