BSC hosts first town hall meeting for merger with ABAC

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Kirbo Center auditorium at Bainbridge State College was packed Monday for the first of many planned town hall meetings to discuss the consolidation of BSC and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.

The meeting was held Q&A-style, with BSC Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Lauren Harrell serving as moderator and reading pre-submitted questions to interim BSC President Stuart Rayfield, ABAC President David Bridges and University System of Georgia Chief Audit Officer John Fuchko.

As in previous meetings, many of the questions were answered with “I don’t know” and “We haven’t made that decision yet.” The Georgia Board of Regents approved the proposal to consolidate BSC and ABAC a week ago on Jan. 11. Plans for the merging of the two institutions is expected to take a year, with noticeable effects coming throughout 2018.

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“ABAC has experienced tremendous success over the last 10 years under David’s leadership,” Rayfield said to a crowd invested in the success BSC. “Our institution will be the beneficiary of his visionary leadership during a time where enrollment at South Georgia colleges and universities has steadily declined. ABAC’s has risen.”

Rayfield stressed that what worked at ABAC to gain that success isn’t necessarily what will be done at the Bainbridge campus, but Bridge’s leadership would serve the institution well in the future.

Forty questions were answered, covering topics from facilities to employee matters to program offerings, all submitted by the public during the days leading up to the town hall meeting.

A question asking if all BSC sites, including the campuses at Donasonville and Blakely, would be part of the merger, to which Fuchko answered yes. The possibility of dormitories was also brought up.

“I don’t foresee residence halls in the future, but I am talking about the near future,” Rayfield said. “I don’t think we know what this is going to look like. Until we give it some time to really set up and experience some success, we don’t know what that will look like.”

Louis Carter, involved in the agriculture industry in Donalsonville, asked about what technical programs BSC/ABAC will offer.

We need some technical people now,” Carter said. “We have offered before over here the health, but we employ 200 people in Donalsonville, about 50 in Albany. We need the technical people. I guarantee we get some good technical people they will make more money than people graduating with BSAs.”

Rayfield agreed, saying growing skilled workers and keeping them in the Bainbridge-Decatur County community was crucial.

“We look at the needed academic programs on this campus,” Rayfield said. “They need to be directly tied to what the workforce needs are. We need to create opportunities for our students to come here and then transfer to other institutions where they can finish the last two years of their degree. We need to be focused on educating our students in these communities and then keeping them here.”

Bridges said the topic of technical education at ABAC would be something weighed heavily over the coming year.
“The issue is how do we best provide both technical education and preparatory collegiate education to those students that are served by this college, “Bridges said. “This is one of the issues we are going to have to spend a great deal of time on.”