Darton College Targets Specific Market Segments

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

This story is one in a series of stories on the state of education in and around Albany.  In this story, Darton College responds to a series of questions posed via email on trends and developments affecting the school and its stakeholders. 

How has enrollment grown and evolved in recent years? What’s driving the change?

Since the overall population in southwest Georgia has continued to decline over the past 20 years, the College has had to pay particular attention to the different market segments within this region and the state; the specific educational needs and interests of each market segment; the existing occupational vacancy trends and trends of new and emerging occupations.

Based on those continuing efforts/studies, Darton has developed and offered 18 additional Health Science Associate Degree Educational Programs throughout the past two decades.  During this same time period, Darton has also developed and offered our students a series of extracurricular activities and programs, and a very successful comprehensive Intercollegiate Athletic Program.  Today, the College offers 22 Health Science degree programs; a comprehensive Visual and Performing Arts Program; the most comprehensive student activity program of any State College in Georgia; and more than 11 Intercollegiate Athletic Programs.

The College also had to be sensitive to the interior and exterior campus aesthetics trying to ensure we matched or exceeded the expectations of existing and new student populations. One only has to visit the campus to see that the Darton State College Campus is one of the most attractive campuses in the University System.

What programs are expanding and in what ways?

The fastest growing programs at Darton are our Nursing, Health Sciences, Servant Leadership and Teacher Education Programs; our Performing Arts Programs; and our Intercollegiate Athletic Programs.  This growth can be seen in enrollments and in the expansion of our facilities.  With our new Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program and planned new Bachelor Degree Programs we foresee one of the fastest growth periods in the College’s history just five to seven years away.

How do you expect the school to look in five to 10 years? Why?

 As the College receives the financial support from our business and community leaders to fund the start-up costs of our new Bachelor Degree Programs as well as funds to support the college’s new Servant Leadership Program and the Chapel for our Servant Leader Students, the College will easily grow to between 8,000 to 10,000 students within five years and 10,000 to 12,000 in 10 years. While that growth is occurring, the campus will transition from a small residential/commuter campus to a major economic contributor to the southwest Georgia economy.  Student apartments, restaurants, and retail establishments designed to serve Darton students and the community will emerge in this northwest section of Albany and southwest Georgia.  The economic impact at 12,000 students could easily exceed $240 million.  For those interested, the Chapel is planned to be constructed on the Darton State College Foundation property off of Herbert Haley Road just southeast and perpendicular to Campus Road.

How is the school supporting the business community and vice versa?

The College supports the business community both directly and indirectly.  According to a study by the University of Georgia, with Darton’s enrollment at a little more than 6,000 students, Darton’s economic impact in our region is more than $119 million.  In addition to serving as an economic engine, graduates from the college become employees in our local businesses, corporations and governmental agencies.  These Darton men and women graduates enter the workforce with an excitement about the future, a strong work ethic, basic and specialized occupational skills, a desire to continue to learn and a passion to improve their quality of life and the quality of life of their families.

In turn the business community has always understood the importance of higher education in Albany and southwest Georgia as it relates to both developing an educated workforce and improving the quality of living within our region of the state.  As early as 1960-61, community leaders supported a local bond issue to create a Junior College in Albany, Georgia.  In 1963, the Charter for Albany Junior College was developed and the College began to offer classes in 1966 as a Two-Year Unit of the University System of Georgia.  Since that time, more than 40,000 men and women have taken classes from Albany Junior College, which was renamed Darton College in 1988 and Darton State College in 2011.  Of those 40,000 individuals, Darton has awarded Associate Degrees to more than 15,350 graduates.

Through the years the business community has also continually assisted the college with donations for student scholarship, faculty staff development, capital building projects and program development.  Business and community leaders serve on our educational program advisory committees, Real Estate LLCs and the boards of our Alumni Association, Boosters and Foundation.

More information on Darton College is available at www.darton.edu.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.