On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, East Georgia State College’s President, Dr. Bob Boehmer, held the yearly state of the college address. Students, faculty, staff and members from the community all gathered in the Luck Flanders Gambrell Center auditorium for the event.
Dr. Boehmer began the address by stating higher education in the United States is currently undergoing a period of rapid transformation and change. Across the United States, students in rural high schools are doing quite well but after high school, fewer rural students are choosing college.
“It is East Georgia State College’s mission to understand why this is happening, provide college access for more students in our region and then graduate them at higher rates,” said Dr. Boehmer. “This is a complex and difficult question. However, it is critical to the economic and social viability of our region and to the life success of our amazing students.”
He then challenged everyone in the audience and asked if they are willing to work hard to provide a high-quality education with a personal touch while changing to become a nationwide leader in meeting the emerging needs of students in our area. Dr. Boehmer thanked everyone for being a part of the East Georgia State College family.
“Being part of this family requires passion for providing access to an affordable, high quality college education and passion for changing the lives of our amazing students,” he said. “Every day, I deeply appreciate the choice all of you have made to be part of this family. The work you are doing each day is critical to the future of this region. It dramatically improves the lives of our students you serve.”
Dr. Boehmer said the college’s continued success depends on the focus of our mission, which states that EGSC is “an associate degree granting, liberal arts institution of the University System of Georgia providing its students access to both academically transferable pathways and collaborative programs in occupation related fields. The College also offers targeted baccalaureate level degrees that support the University System's initiative to expand educational opportunities. The College prepares traditional and nontraditional students for success in the global 21st century through a technologically advanced teaching and learning environment that fosters personal growth by utilizing an expanding range of resources and amenities, including an on-campus student residential option. The College also continuously engages the communities it serves through public service and cultural enrichment.”
There are unique challenges that EGSC faces because of the demographics of the 27 counties surrounding the three EGSC campuses.
One of those challenges is computer and internet use. In the U.S., over 87% of households have a computer and over 78% have a broadband internet subscription, said Dr. Boehmer. In Georgia the percentages are similar with 87% of households having a computer and over 76% having a broadband internet subscription.
“In our 27-county region, by contrast, just over 77% of households have a computer and just over 63% have a broadband internet subscription,” said Dr. Boehmer. “In one county in our region, these rates are 62% and 40%.”
The next challenge is educational attainment.
“In the U.S., over 87% of the population over 25 are high school graduates or higher,” he explained. “Almost 31% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Georgia, the comparable percentages are just over 86% and just under 30%. By way of contrast, in our 27-county region the comparable percentages are over 81% for high school graduates and just under 17% for bachelor’s degrees and higher. In one county in this region, these rates are under 12% holding a bachelor’s degree and over 75% graduating from high school.”
Dr. Boehmer then mentioned another topic that will help carry out the mission of the college. The college needs to recognize that it serves a diverse population of students reflective in many ways of the diversity within our great region.
“In fall of 2018, 44.7% of our student body was Caucasian, 43.4% of our student body was African American, and .8% was Hispanic. This diversity is one of our great strengths. This strength could be enhanced further if our efforts to reach Hispanic students in our region intensified and our Hispanic student population increased to a level reflective of the number of Hispanic students in our region,” he explained.
EGSC’s Economic Impact was the next topic of discussion. In the most recent year (2018) measured by the University of Georgia, East Georgia State College had an economic impact of almost $81 million in Emanuel, Candler, Bulloch, Johnson, Jefferson, Toombs, Treutlen, and Jenkins counties combined (our service area as defined by the Selig Center).
Major challenges of higher education in the United States was also brought up during the address. The first challenge is consolidations. Dr. Boehmer stated that in the past there were 36 institutions of higher education in the University System of Georgia. Now there are only 26. The next challenge is public skepticism about higher education. He then continued by adding other major challenges: a coming decline in high school graduates in the U.S., the new ways Gen Z learns, the changed funding model for higher education, and failure to change in response to these trends.
After taking a look at the challenges facing the college, Dr. Boehmer touched on the successes of the fiscal year of 2019. One of the larger projects is adding space in the Jean Anderson Morgan Student Center. The project will add about 15,000 square feet of needed space to the center. The new addition is expected to open in early 2020.
The next success is the Statesboro location will move to a location on the Georgia Southern University campus. This move will eliminate the need for the time and expense of students and faculty traveling from the current location to Georgia Southern University for classes and student services. This change is expected to happen in 2021. In addition, the college entered into a long-needed comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with Georgia Southern University. This was put into place to promote student success and will pay many long-term dividends.
The next success mentioned was on the Augusta campus. Since opening the campus in 2013, the college has grown from zero students to over 400 students. The campus has taken a major step by moving all the Augusta faculty and staff into renovated space on the second floor of Galloway Hall on the Augusta University Summerville campus.
Other successes that were mentioned were the information technology department has expanded as the EGSC facilities have expanded, two internal leadership development programs have been implemented, a Comprehensive Administration Review has been completed, and the academic programs continue to evolve and improve.
Even though the college has had many successes in the past few years, more projects are starting to begin. The first big project of the coming year is the SACSCOC Reaffirmation. This determines the value of the degrees the college grants and it is essential to grow and thrive as a respected institution. The other two big projects are to increase enrollment and rates of academic success and to increase funds raised from private dollars and external grants.
The full text of Dr. Boehmer’s speech is available online at http://www.ega.edu/announce/Bob_Boehmer_State_of_the_College_Address_2019_as_of_September_24_2019.pdf.