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Group pushes for Darton to have four-year status

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Citizens for Economic Development Vice Chair Glenn Tennyson made a pitch for four-year status for Darton College Thursday to members of the Albany Rotary Club. He chose his words carefully -- very, very carefully.

"I'm not here to talk about the impact (of four-year status) on Darton College or Albany State," Tennyson told the Rotarians at Doublegate Country Club. "This is all about the future of Albany and boosting our local economy. There are many people who feel Darton College should offer a few four-year degrees, specifically in nursing, teaching and allied health.

"The last thing we want to do is allow politics to hurt a good common cause."

Tennyson asserts that too often when students complete their two-year degrees at Darton they either stop there or leave town to complete their four-year degrees, unlikely to return to Albany.

The CED vice chair thinks having some four-year programs at Darton will keep some of those students in Albany, boosting the community as a whole.

But there is a huge obstacle in this plan, and it is located right across the Flint River in ASU.

"In the past our friends at Albany State have seen this as a threat and vehemently opposed Darton having any four-year programs," a CED release said. "Approximately 73 percent of Darton's enrollment comes from Southwest Georgia while 83 percent of Albany State's enrollment comes from outside of Southwest Georgia. You can see that the very different demographics of each school makes it evident that Albany State would be virtually unaffected."

Tennyson added, "the last thing we want to do is hurt Albany State," he said, "but there is no doubt in my mind that these two great institutions can co-exist and actually thrive in close proximity."

In addition to opposition from ASU, Tennyson said the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents have also said budget constraints make the proposal a non-starter.

"The state has told us 'we can't afford it.'" Tennyson said. "Well, we've told them we will pay for it ourselves. Our first program would be in nursing, where there is a definite need. The is no doubt in my mind that we can raise the $386,000 required to start the program and raise it all locally.

"Then, we would gradually work in the allied health and teaching programs."

According to Albany State University's website, potentialrealized.org, ASU's "College of Sciences and Health Professions includes the Department of Nursing which is composed of the two nursing programs in the Department of Nursing: the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and the master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees.

The BSN program is approved by the Georgia Board of Nursing, and the BSN and MSN programs are accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. Both nursing programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools."

The idea Tennyson said, is to halt the "brain drain" that is currently plaguing Southwest Georgia.

"We are losing students left and right," Tennyson said. "We are looking to keep a product here at home in Albany. That product is well-educated taxpayers."

As in the past, the biggest hurdle is Albany State's mind-set. Tennyson hopes the school is now of a different mind-set.

"I hope we are in a new paradigm of thinking here," Tennyson said. "Education does not need to fall victim to the politics of the past. I hope that those types of politics can finally take a back seat to what's best for Albany."