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Deal proposes satellite campus funding

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

A significant step has been made in Henry County's pursuit of state funds for the construction of a Southern Crescent Technical College satellite facility in McDonough.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who took office Jan. 10, included $5.46 million in state money for the facility in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012.

"More and more Georgians are taking advantage of our state's excellent technical college system, particularly in high-growth areas such as Henry County," said Deal. "The cost of excellence, in this case, is higher demand from Georgia students."

The proposed facility would be the satellite campus for Southern Crescent Technical College, the Griffin, Ga.-based technical school that resulted from the 2010 merger between Griffin Technical College and Flint River Technical College, in Thomaston, Ga.

"We're facing extremely austere budget times, and all state services are facing cutbacks," added Deal. "We have to keep investing in our technical colleges as best we can, however, because these schools are preparing Georgians for the jobs that will help lift us out of this economic downturn. The state of Georgia receives a great rate of return on its technical colleges."

Southern Crescent Tech officials announced last July that they would commit $2.5 million toward Phase I planning for a 15,000-square-foot classroom facility on the 25-acre lot adjoining Henry County High School. The Henry County Board of Education is donating the land for the effort.

The technical school currently offers some courses in business management and human resource management at Henry County's Academy for Advanced Studies, also located on the Henry County High School campus in McDonough, according to Southern Crescent Tech Spokeswoman Anna Taylor.

The Academy for Advanced Studies, according to Henry County school officials, is a consortium of area higher-education institutions that offer dual/joint-enrollment and satellite-campus courses to Henry County residents.

They have said the Southern Crescent Tech satellite campus would help expand higher education opportunities in Henry. Southern Crescent Tech officials said last July that the college's proposed satellite campus, eventually, would encompass 35,700 square feet of classroom and office space, at an estimated cost of just under $8 million.

"We're very encouraged and excited about the prospect of having the funding for that campus," said Tony Pickett, Henry County's executive assistant to the Office of the Superintendent. "We're really excited about those prospects."

Southern Crescent Tech's satellite campus project was named to the Technical College System of Georgia's 2010-11 Top Ten Priorities List for capital outlay funding. However, officials noted that state legislators did not approve funding for the campus.

Gov. Deal's inclusion of the project in his budget recommendations is a move forward for the project, according to Mike Light, spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).

"That was the only TCSG campus addition to be included in the budget," Light noted. "We had asked for two other campuses -- in Camden and Bartow counties."

Light acknowledged that the next step is to go through a long legislative process. The general assembly is scheduled to review the recommendation and others in the days and weeks to come.

"It's an important step, [because] this has been talked about for several years now," said Light, adding that the presence of technical education opportunities within a community enhances its appeal to industries.

"Basically, the kind of workforce we produce is vital to attracting and keeping business in the area," he said. "The bottom line is we are very pleased that, in these austere times, the governor saw fit to include the Henry County campus in his budget."