The consolidation of Bainbridge State College (BSC) with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) moved a step closer to culmination on Tuesday when the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) approved the prospectus for the merger.
Coupled with the approval of the prospectus by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) on Dec. 5, all current BSC students will become ABAC students on Jan. 1, 2018.
“I want to thank Stuart Rayfield for the job she did as interim president at Bainbridge
during this entire process,” ABAC President David Bridges said. “She has been a terrific partner for ABAC, and I wish her well.”
Rayfield, interim president at Bainbridge since June 1, 2016, has been selected by University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley to be the interim president at Gordon State College beginning Jan. 1.
“We are especially grateful for the dedication, persistence, and hard work by ABAC, BSC, and USG personnel over the past 12 months,” Rayfield said. “It was that hard work that will make it possible to better serve students in the months and years ahead.”
Wrigley echoed those sentiments.
“Creating the new Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will allow us to better serve students, broaden and redesign academic programs and reinvest savings into academics to improve student success,” Wrigley said. “We will continue to work toward ensuring the success of our students, faculty, and staff in partnership with our local communities.”
Bridges is ready to spring forward with the new look of ABAC.
“We plan to offer students at our instructional site in Bainbridge the best collegiate educational opportunity they have ever had,” Bridges, the longest serving president in the USG, said. “We offer only one product but it is a very valuable product. We offer the opportunity for a life-changing educational experience to every student who walks on our campus. The value of the ABAC experience is absolutely priceless.”
ABAC enrolled 3,394 students from 24 countries, 18 states, and 155 Georgia counties for the 2017 fall semester. ABAC had the highest fulltime enrollment at 72.8 percent among the 10 state colleges. BSC enrolled 1,746 students for the 2017 fall term.
“We’ll begin a series of soft starts in Bainbridge in January,” Bridges said. “Our two business offices will become the ABAC business office. Our two student records systems will become the ABAC student records system. Bainbridge students will enroll for the spring as they usually do.”
Bridges said Dr. Michael Kirkland, a Bainbridge State alumnus and a faculty member at the institution, will serve as Executive Director of the ABAC instructional site in Bainbridge as well as for sites in Donalsonville and Blakely.
By the time the 2018 fall semester begins on Aug. 15, ABAC plans to offer classes leading to the bachelor’s degree in business and possibly the bachelor’s degree in nursing at the Bainbridge instructional site. ABAC will also offer classes leading to the associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of nursing degrees in Bainbridge.
“Under the existing plan, Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) will assume responsibility in July for the technical programs now taught in Bainbridge,” Bridges said.
“Students enrolled in those programs will be ABAC students in January, but then will become
SRTC students when the changeover occurs.”
Students in Bainbridge, Donalsonville, and Blakely who are completing degree requirements during the spring term will have an opportunity to participate in the final Bainbridge State College commencement ceremony in May. All future graduates enrolled in ABAC classes will have the opportunity to participate in ABAC commencement ceremonies, which are held in May and December each year.
The Regents approved a recommendation from Wrigley to consolidate BSC with ABAC on Jan. 11. Since that time, an implementation team with representatives from both BSC and ABAC has been working to iron out the details of the consolidation so that it can provide the best service for the region and the state.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the Regents also approved the prospectus for the Armstrong
State University consolidation with Georgia Southern University. With the completion of the two consolidations, the number of USG institutions is now 26, a reduction from the 35 USG institutions which existed prior to the launch of the consolidation initiative in 201l.