Middle Georgia State one step closer to becoming university

jmink@macon.comJune 28, 2014 

It’s been nearly six months since Christopher Blake took the reins as the new president of Middle Georgia State College, and the school is now one step closer to becoming a university.

As part of the requirements of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, the college has outlined its official vision for getting there. A task force of faculty, staff and community members has established the goals and steps that will take the institution from Middle Georgia State College to university status.

Some of those steps include forming graduate programs, increasing admission standards and increasing faculty scholarship.

Soon after Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges merged in January 2013, the board of regents suggested that the college could become a university within the next three years. As they look to the future, college officials must first establish graduate programs to push the college into university status. Offering master’s programs has been a goal since the January 2013 merger.

“I think post-consolidation, we’ve learned what our strengths are,” said Nancy Bunker, chairwoman of the faculty senate and co-chair of Middle Georgia State’s Task Force on Vision. “Now, what do we do next? We have to have some master’s degrees. So the steps to beginning that process are taking place in various schools.”

Blake plans to gear those programs toward the strengths of the region. For example, Macon has a significant health care industry, so officials are contemplating a graduate program in nursing. Other potential graduate programs include business and management, education and technology -- specifically cyber security.

The college recently opened a new digital forensics lab, which teaches students how to fight digital crime, among other skills. The college’s cyber defense team recently ranked among the top in the region.

“You build on what you’re good at,” Blake said.

Faculty members are on board with the change, Bunker said, and some of them are developing admissions criteria for future graduate programs.

Still, an upgrade to university status isn’t free. It is typical for tuition to increase, and Middle Georgia State will be no different. There have been no decisions on how much tuition would increase, but the cost would still be affordable compared with other institutions, Blake said, and students would be getting a return on their investment by attending a state university.

Now, a full-time, in-state student taking 15 credit hours would pay about $1,900 a semester in tuition and fees, according to the college’s website.

The future university also will increase its admission standards, Blake said. For the spring 2015 semester, a traditional freshman entering Middle Georgia State College must score at least a 350 on the SAT reading section and a 350 on the math section, or a 14 on the ACT English section and a 14 on the math section.

As it looks to become a university, the college also will increase academic resources and research opportunities for faculty members -- a requirement of universities. After all, college professors aren’t just teaching; they’re also continually gaining knowledge, Blake said.

“If you’re teaching history, for example, you’re a scholar as well as a teacher of history,” he said.

The next step in the process involves more planning. For now, officials are mapping out a detailed, strategic plan to present to the board of regents in a few months.

“I’d like to think it is very exciting,” Blake said. “There is outstanding higher education in Georgia, in Macon. But there needs to be a public university that can serve the region, that’s attune to the needs of the region. We’re a place that can do that.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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