Vote to merge Bainbridge State College, ABAC coming next week

Published 5:36 pm Friday, January 6, 2017

From Staff Reports

The Post-Searchlight

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley plans to recommend the consolidation of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) and Bainbridge State College to the Board of Regents. The Board will act upon the recommendation at its Jan. 11 meeting.

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The consolidation of these two institutions is expected to enable the University System to better serve students, broaden or redesign academic programs offered in the South Georgia region and reinvest savings into academics to improve student success.

The recommended consolidation proposes to expand upon ABAC’s specialized-degree programs that are uniquely meeting the needs of agriculture, the largest industry in Georgia.

While the proposed consolidation will present challenges, ABAC President David Bridges and Bainbridge State Interim President Stuart Rayfield pledge to work together to enhance educational opportunities for students.

“Consolidating ABAC and Bainbridge creates a unique opportunity to strategically align Bainbridge State’s degree offerings with workforce and regional needs,” said Wrigley.

In addition, ABAC has become a leader in new student recruitment, enrollment management and academic achievement and will bring these best practices to Bainbridge State, which has been facing enrollment declines over the last five years.

“We are committed to serving South Georgia in public higher education and our partnership with the Tifton and Bainbridge communities,” said Wrigley. “This consolidation is a long-term investment of the University System in South Georgia.”

Initial opportunities from consolidating ABAC and Bainbridge State include:

• Expands upon ABAC’s specialized-degree programs that have successfully identified and partnered with the needs of agriculture.

• Strategically aligns degree offerings with workforce and regional needs with a focus on agriculture utilizing a select range of degrees currently offered at ABAC.

• Establishes a simpler path for associate-degree students to achieve bachelor’s degrees.

• Applies ABAC’s best practices in new student recruitment, enrollment management and academic achievement.

• Maintains access for students in Bainbridge to the Technical College System of Georgia certificate/diploma programs.

• Continues to serve local high school students in the Bainbridge area through the highly successful Move On When Ready dual-enrollment program.

• Reinvests savings from administrative efficiencies into programs to support student success.

If the Board approves the recommendation, an implementation team with representatives from the campuses will soon be formed for the consolidation. The team will be charged with the responsibility to work out the many details associated with the consolidation.

The University System and the two institutions will hold campus and community listening sessions in the coming months to seek and hear input on ways to best design the new institutions to serve their region and the state.