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Wilkerson gives ‘State of the Campus’

There is a big problem at Bainbridge College. That’s the bad news. The good news is the problem is a lack of space for the booming student population at the school.

The Bainbridge Rotary Club received the “State of the Campus” Bainbridge College update Tuesday at its weekly lunch meeting. The report from Tom Wilkerson, president of the college, was glowing and the college is headed for rapid growth.

The first class convened on campus in 1973 and the total student enrollment was just over 200 students. The estimated enrollment this fall will be 3,500 students. However, the physical plant growth has not kept up with the student growth.

In fact, the estimated enrollment in the fall of 2020 will be 7,000 students.

“We have set out on, what has been described to me, a very ambitious building program. I get a little contentious about that, because it is not a question of aggressive or ambitious, it’s a question of if we don’t do this now, how will we accommodate the students that we know we’ll have,” said Wilkerson.

The Student Wellness Center, scheduled to begin construction in August, will add 76,000 of square feet to the campus. The college has entered into a lease agreement for the building that once was a bowling center near the Bainbridge Mall.

In that 15,000-square-foot building will be the cosmetology program and the Continuing Education program, once renovations are complete.

In addition, construction on a 10,000-square-foot addition to the technical studies building began this week. This new building will contain the welding program, the electrical wiring program and the truck-driving program.

At the Blakely campus, a 10,000-square-foot Student Wellness Center is also being constructed to accommodate the 1,000 students on that campus.

The plans for these four new spaces are complete and all should be in use by October of 2010.

In the planning stages, but an approved project by the University of Georgia System Board of Regents, is an 80,000-square-foot Academic Life Building. This structure will cost $25 million and will be presented in the budget during the legislative session in 2010.

“If this plan is aggressive, if it is ambitious, well, it needs to be,” Wilkerson said. “The nightmare, I kid you not, is standing in the doorway saying ‘I’m sorry but your child, your grandchild cannot come here.’ That’s not an acceptable option for our institution.”

In total, within five years, an additional 190,000 square feet of space worth more than $50 million will be constructed on the main Bainbridge campus and the Blakely campus.