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Four-year status may draw suit

ALBANY, Ga. -- In late February, sources confirmed to The Albany Herald that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will soon approve a four-year nursing program at Darton College.

That news attracted the attention of the Legal Defense Coalition for the Preservation of Public HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who strongly opposed the idea.

The LDC says giving four-year status to Darton's program is an unnecessary duplication of services since Albany State University and Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus already have four-year nursing programs in place.

At that time, Regents spokesman John Millsaps said Darton's request to expand its nursing/allied health program was under consideration by the board.

"Darton is one of several of the state's two-year colleges that have submitted a 'mission change' proposal to the Regents," Millsaps said. "Their request is currently under review, and while no timeline has been established for making a definitive decision, the process is moving forward at this time."

The LDC jumped into the fray this week.

"Given the economic challenges we face as a result of our state's struggling economy, it is simply unfathomable that the regents would have the audacity to even consider approving such a costly program for a two-year school when there is already a fully capable and functioning nursing program not even 10 miles away at Albany State," LDC spokesman John M. Clark said.

In addition, the LDC contends that if the regents approve Darton's proposal, it would be in direct contradiction of a still applicable federal court order.

"In 1978, as part of a federally mandated higher education desegregation plan, the state of Georgia (and the Board of Regents) was required by the federal government to submit and comply with a desegregation plan," Clark said. "Among the requirements were that the state and the BOR (regents) eliminate unnecessary academic program duplication among black and white institutions in the same service areas.

"We contend this proposed action would continue to perpetuate a deficiency in the mandates of Title VI by failing to add programs that would enhance the HBCUs, eliminate unnecessary program duplication and attract greater white enrollment."

Should the regents approve Darton's proposal, the coalition said it would file suit against the board.

In a written statement, the LDC said that "should the state and the board approve this proposed measure and fail to fully comply with the federal requirement; the LDC will aggressively pursue legal action against the Board of Regents and the state for its blatant refusal to comply with the government-ordered requirements of the 1978 desegregation plan."

Officials at Darton referred comment to the regents while ASU referred comment to the Albany State Alumni Association.