On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the annual State of the College Presidential Address was held at East Georgia State College in the Luck Flanders Gambrell Center Auditorium. The event was well attended by students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.
“It is a true privilege to have this opportunity to spend some time with you […] to share with you my thoughts about the current state of the college,” began EGSC President Dr. Bob Boehmer. “As I prepared some of my slides this weekend, Joyce and I discussed how lucky we are to be a part of this very special, welcoming community and to serve as stewards of the treasure that we all know as EGSC.”
Dr. Boehmer then recognized three families that have made a significant difference in the life of the college, recognizing “the belief that the Corrells, the Morgans and the Gambrells demonstrate on each visit in the enormous potential of our EGSC students—the potential that those students have to improve their own lives and the lives of this region of the state.”
“They cared less about budgets and buildings and cared most about talking with our students and learning about their plans to graduate and have fulfilling lives and careers,” reflected Dr. Boehmer. “That is our mission, isn’t it? To provide an affordable and high-quality place of learning, giving our amazing EGSC students access to a college degree and a better life. Judged against that mission, I submit to you today that the state of the college is, indeed, very, very good.”
Dr. Boehmer presented an overview of the students served by EGSC, and answered the question of why it is important for EGSC to have three locations: Swainsboro, Statesboro and Augusta. “It is because those three locations make an affordable college degree possible for students from very distinct parts of this region and of the state of Georgia.”
The EGSC President also took time to give a brief overview of events coming up at the college, and thanked the students, EGSC Foundation, the Emanuel County Board of Education, local officials and legislators, and the Board of Regents for their support of EGSC. He then congratulated the accomplishments of new Southeastern Technical College President Larry Calhoun and Interim President Gail Ware.
He also outlined the ongoing push for a culture of respect at EGSC. “This is an environment where the contribution of every individual to our educational mission is valued, and I really, deeply appreciate our Faculty Senate, led by Walt Mason; our Student Government Association, led by Caitlan Coleman; and our Staff Council, led by Tia Morris, for helping me build that culture of respect at East Georgia State College.”
Dr. Tim Goodman was then recognized for his years of service in the University System of Georgia and his numerous contributions to EGSC. Also recognized were the impending retirement of Dr. Bob Brown and the achievement of Professor Emeritus status for Dr. Glenn Stracher.
“East Georgia State College is doing a lot with very little resources, and we’re doing it in an environment that is changing dramatically on a daily basis,” Dr. Boehmer said. “If you look at our budget this year, fiscal year 2016, we’ve got more students on campus and more people that are doing more, and our budget’s state allocation was $43,000 less than the prior year.”
Dr. Boehmer presented a chart comparing the tuition, residence fees, meal plans, and student fees of other types of colleges to East Georgia State College. EGSC is about half per semester in cost to attend versus a research institution, and even in comparison to some other state colleges, EGSC is still less by several thousand dollars.
“We’re not preparing to change the cost of education for students,” said Dr. Boehmer. “We’re committed, strategically to retaining our position as a leader in affordability. Even though, across the country, a lot of institutions are shifting a lot of the cost of education to the students in the form of tuition increases, out of all 30 institutions in the University System of Georgia, we are the most affordable, and we intend to stay that way, even in this challenging environment.”
Revenue collections were then presented, and Dr. Boehmer explained how that was good news for the state. He cautioned, however, that there are many other state priorities competing for these same funds. “Things are really looking up,” he explained, stating that the Board of Regents made a proposal of their fiscal year 2017 budget, proposing a $55 million budget increase for the University System of Georgia as a whole. “That is really positive news.”
“Another thing that is really positive is enrollment. Across the country, many institutions similar to EGSC are experiencing significant downward enrollment trends,” explained Dr. Boehmer. “EGSC’s Fall 2014 enrollment increased, and it has also increased this year. That is a very powerful piece of news—the fact that more of our amazing students are choosing to stay here and study.”
“The final numbers are not in yet, but we project a two to three percent increase in enrollment this fall,” he explained.
Dr. Boehmer also addressed concerns that have been expressed to him by many about ongoing consolidations around the state. “I can’t promise you, but I can tell you that I have seen no indications whatsoever that East Georgia State College is under consideration for consolidation in the near future.”
“College, students, is so much more important for you today than it was for me when I went to college in 1968.” Dr. Boehmer said. The gap in earnings between college graduates and those who have not attained a degree is growing; and unemployment is lower for college graduates. “Despite this heightened importance, college attainment rates are not high enough. In this region of the state, those rates are particularly low. Also, many students are borrowing too much money. The result is that an institution like EGSC that is focused on raising the expectations of students about earning a degree, doing an incredible job of teaching them, and then getting them an affordable college degree is an incredibly important thing in this environment. Faculty and staff, please do not doubt the high importance of the great work you do here every day.”
“The premium on earning degrees is growing and will keep growing,” he explained, outlining the cost of attending college versus the cost of not attending college. “Poverty increases, unemployment increases, and incarceration increases [without a college degree.] The reality is, those without college educations, more commonly in the United States, live in poverty.”
Dr. Boehmer then outlined the accomplishments of East Georgia State College this past year. “Our recruiting activities are returning dividends in the form of enrollment, and that is a huge accomplishment. We also have more students earning their degrees. We’ve had a dramatic increase,” he explained.
He also outlined the number of students who graduated, as well as those who transferred to another institution to finish their degree. When comparing the numbers of EGSC and other institutions, EGSC is performing well but we can’t be satisfied with current graduation and transfer rates. “ He explained that these rates must continue to increase dramatically to make it possible for the state to attain its Complete College Georgia goals.
“East Georgia State College is an access institution, and we’re fiercely proud of that. That is our future. We do not intend to become a highly selective institution. We intend to remain an open door for all students who are capable of attending college, and that is where our future and our success lies,” said Dr. Boehmer. He outlined what needs to be done in the next year, including an improved salary structure, increased private fundraising, and putting together a Center for Youth Success in the community.
“There are simply not enough things for young people to do in this community, and it affects the rate at which they attend college they choose to come to college here,” he explained. “We need to come together with the Emanuel County Schools and others to form a concrete plan for that Center for Youth Success.”
He also outlined the proposal which will soon be submitted to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. If approved, this program would offer courses on the Southeastern Technical College campus.
Another ongoing project is expanding housing at EGSC as well as an expansion of the Academic Building.
“We also need to contribute to the livability of this community,” Dr. Boehmer said, addressing a letter to the editor he wrote in The Forest-Blade in August. “If you go past some of the blight on Highway 80, you could immediately change your impression [of the community.] It has a detrimental effect on our ability to bring students to this community and on our ability to bring businesses to this community. We need to get behind our community leaders in getting rid of that blight.”
After closing remarks, the Address concluded and attendees were treated to hot dogs, cole slaw, chips and drinks in the Gambrell Center Rotunda.