Dr. Art Dunning: The Greatest Days are Ahead for Albany State University

Dr. Art Dunning

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

For many years, conventional wisdom held that the fortunes of Albany State University and Darton State College were mutually exclusive.

Although located only minutes apart in Southwest Georgia, graduates from both institutions enjoyed success in various fields of endeavor such as law enforcement, education, government, health care and the military.

In addition to thousands of proud alumni, both distinguished institutions could boast of rich heritages that provided valuable foundations for educating and fertile teaching, learning and research laboratories. 

So why consolidate? First of all, due to the significant benefits to students and graduates from both institutions. Secondly, for the expected benefits to be provided to the combined economies of Albany and Dougherty County. Thirdly, there will be benefits throughout higher education and society at large.

Other than their relative proximity, the two institutions would seem to have little in common. Albany State University is one of three historically black public colleges and universities in Georgia. Darton State College, with its 5,470 students, about half of whom are white and half African-American, are enrolled in open-access, two-year programs.

The consolidation of Albany State University and Darton State College allows for students at both facilities to bring transformational change to the area that can improve the lives of current and future students and area residents.

A recommendation from University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby to consolidate Albany State University and Darton State College was approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in 2015. I was selected to lead the new institution, to be known as Albany State University.

For the next 18-24 months, I am working closely with Darton State College interim President Richard Carvajal on executing agendas. There is a consolidation implementation committee consisting of 20 members from each institution.

Dr. Carvajal the committee and I are working with 22 functional areas headed by coordinators. They are working with 79 operational working groups with co-chairs, representing each institution, who are looking at every aspect of the two organizations and making recommendations to the committee by way of the functional area coordinators.

Why is consolidation needed?

• Per capita, personal income in Southwest Georgia has increased from just over $20,000 in 2000 to just over $30,000 in 2014.

• Population growth in the 26-county service area was a negative 1.6 percent.

• From 2010 to 2030 in the 26-county service area, population for those under 25 will increase by 3.6 percent, the 25-44 age group will increase 2.1 percent, the 45-64 age group will increase 4.22 percent and the population of those 65 and older will increase by 70.8 percent.

This data, provided by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, is a clear indication we cannot continue business as usual.

We must be more intentional about educating students, improving the economic fabric of the area and creating a cultural and social climate that embraces diversity, inclusion, growth and prosperity.

What are the advantages of consolidation? Consolidation:

• Creates a university of nearly 9,000 students, the largest institution of higher education in Southwest Georgia.

• Builds on Albany State University’s HBCU mission and Darton State College’s access mission. 

• Creates a larger university to serve the needs of community and region with a range of degrees.

• Establishes a simpler path for Associate-degree students to earn Bachelor’s Degrees.

• Builds on recent agreements between Albany State University and Darton State College in areas such as Criminal Justice, forensic Science and music education.

• Allows one institution to focus on economic impact in the region and update curriculum to address regional workforce needs. For example: the newly-approved supply chain and logistics programs at Albany State University.

• Responds to environment challenges by concentrating recruitment and retention resources in a single institution.

• Reinvests savings from administrative efficiencies in programs to support student success.

Please help us to create a world class university in Southwest Georgia by investing in our students, supporting need-based scholarships and sharing the news of our impending fortunes with your friends, neighbors and colleagues.

The time is now. The future is bright. Our greatest days are just ahead.

Dr. Art Dunning is president of Albany State University.