Rayfield discusses merger with ABAC at Rotary

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dr. Stuart Rayfiled, the interim president at Bainbridge State College, was the guest speaker at Tuesday afternoon’s Rotary meeting. She used her time to discuss the ongoing merger between Bainbridge State College and ABAC that was officially announced in January.

“They more I have gotten to know the folks over there, especially their president; I could not be more excited about the potential for this consolidation and what it will mean for this campus,” she said.

The two schools recently completed a new mission statement. The plan is for the Board of Regents to approve the joint mission statement at its March meeting, which will enable the two schools to proceed with the merger process.

The next step will be for the schools to submit a prospectus to their accrediting agency, the South Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This must be submitted by Sept. 1 and then the agency will either approve or deny it during the first week of December.

“So far all the consolidation proposals that have been submitted by our Board of Regent’s institutions have been approved,” Rayfield said. “Assuming it is approved, our regents have 30 days to officially approve it and to start the implementation process.”

If all goes according to plan, the two schools will officially become one on Jan. 1, 2018.

““That will be more in theory than in practice,” Rayfiled said. “Our fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30 so it wont be until July 1, 2018, that we will operate under one budget. We will still continue to award degrees that say Bainbridge State College on them through Spring 2018.”

Bainbridge State College is also going through a separate process of handing over control of its technical programs to Southern Regional. The programs will still be offered on Bainbridge’s campus, just under a different name.

“The number one goal for us to be able to better serve the students that are on this campus and to better serve the communities that we serve through this institution,” Rayfiled said of the mergers.

Although many of the details are still being finalized, it has been decided that ABAC president Dr. David Bridges will serve as the president of the combined schools. It has also been determined that it would be financially feasible to offer Bachelor programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Bainbridge campus.

“Bachelor degree programs are very expensive to offer,” Rayfield said. “Ag programs and natural resources, that is the heart of what ABAC does. Those programs are very expensive to deliver. They require a lot of expensive equipment, access to a lot of land and facilities that are very expensive.”

The plan is enable students to complete their first two years towards an Ag and Natural Resources degree in Bainbridge and then seamlessly transfer to the Tifton campus to complete the degree.

They are working on developing a plan that will enable students to pursue a Bachelors of Science in nursing degree at the Bainbridge campus. This would likely be through a online classes utilizing the faculty in Tifton, but clinical experience will be completed locally. Rayfield said that she is also interested in bringing a Bachelors degree in Rural Studies, which combines communication, political science, sociology, science and history, to the Bainbridge campus.

The current time line is for the merger to be complete and for students to officially enroll in ABAC-Bainbridge and Southern Regional-Bainbridge beginning with the Fall 2018 semester.

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