A More Educated
David A. Bell Discusses
In Statewide Initiative
an enrollment growth leader in the University System of Georgia,
Macon State College is fully invested in the Board of Regents' new
strategic initiative to expand higher education to more of
"Our most important roles are to
serve this region as a focused baccalaureate institution and
continue to be a point of acceess to higher education for
a wide range of people."
-- President David A. Bell
The plan is called "A More Educated Georgia," and its
goals include boosting the number of citizens in college - and promoting
economic development - by serving more non-traditional students
and attracting a greater percentage of the state's recent high school
It is an ambitious plan designed to meet a daunting challenge.
Georgia ranks 48th nationwide in the percentage of young adults
(ages 18 to 22) engaged in higher education, according to the Regents'
Office of Strategic Research and Analysis. The state ranks dead
last in the percentage of students age 25 through 39 enrolled in
public postsecondary institutions.
"While we have compensated in the past by attracting tens
of thousands of educated transplants from other parts of the nation,
there are tremendous opportunities in the future for Georgia residents
who are prepared and motivated to complete a college education,"
said Macon State College President David A. Bell. "They will
drive the state's next economic revolution."
Many of the goals in the Regents' strategic plan have long been
an integral part of Macon State's mission. The college's success
in expanding higher education to more Central Georgia residents
is reflected in strong enrollment gains over the past few years.
Macon State led the University System with an enrollment increase
of 10 percent over 1999. In spring 2001, the college was second
among the state's 34 campuses with growth of 11 percent. This past
summer brought a 13 percent jump, while the fall 2001 semester saw
enrollment increase nearly 10 percent over last year.
"The name of the game under Gov. Roy Barnes and the Board
of Regents is that we have to educate more Georgians - that's the
bottom line," Bell said. "I am encouraged by the Regents'
decision to take this challenge and make it part of the new strategic
plan. We're going to use our considerable experience of reaching
out to working adults to help build a 21st century workforce for
In this Q&A, Bell expands
on the regional role Macon State is playing in creating a more educated
Q. Part of the vision statement for the Regents' strategic plan
is that the University System will create a more-educated Georgia,
well prepared for a global, technological society, by providing
first-rate undergraduate education and committed public service.
What roles, new or ongoing, do you see for Macon State in fulfilling
that vision for Central Georgia?
A. Our most important roles are to serve this region as a focused
baccalaureate institution and continue to be a point of access to
higher education for a wide range of people. I use the word "focused"
because all of the bachelor of science degrees we now offer, and
those we will offer in the future, are professionally oriented,
designed to provide our graduates with skills and knowledge that
are marketable in Central Georgia. Along with that focused baccalaureate
mission, Macon State's convenience, affordability and support services
for students represent an opportunity for a college education for
residents of this region willing to put in the effort. Those two
roles fit in perfectly with the Regents' strategic plan. While our
percentage of younger students is also growing, our large population
of mature students and overall enrollment increases are indicators
that the college is already contributing to the University System's
vision for the future.
Macon State has had one of the University System's more diverse
campuses for a number of years, and new data shows the campus is
becoming even more diverse as far as race and gender. Why is that
good news for Central Georgia?
A. It means we are doing a good job offering access to higher education
to a variety of demographic groups-some of which traditionally have
not had high rates of participation-which is exactly what a college
in a metropolitan area should be doing. A more educated Central
Georgia is a more prosperous Central Georgia, especially when more
citizens of all demographic groups are represented.
Q. Offering bachelor's degrees is still a fairly new enterprise
for Macon State. Do you think Central Georgia has fully accepted
Macon State as a baccalaureate institution?
A. Absolutely. Based on the reactions I get when I talk to people
and make presentations to groups, they recognize that the new Macon
State is not only a senior college but also a unique model in higher
education. One indication of that, to me, is the caliber of people
who agree to serve on the Macon State College Foundation Board of
Trustees. These are Central Georgia leaders in business, government,
law and the military, and they aren't agreeing to serve just to
get free lunches at the meetings. They believe in what we represent
to Central Georgia and want to see us continue to move forward.
Another significant factor that shows our maturity as a baccalaureate
institution is the rising percentages of juniors and seniors in
our student body. We have 27 percent more seniors this year than
last year, and the numbers are putting us more closely in line with
the class breakdown of baccalaureate institutions that have been
around a lot longer.
Q. Macon State also continues to offer more than 40 two-year transfer
degree programs of recognized quality. Where do those programs fit
in with the strategic plan?
A. They are a critical part of the mission Macon State has had since
opening 33 years ago, which is to serve as a point of access to
the University System of Georgia. Coupled with our focused baccalaureate
mission, we have the best of all possible worlds.
Q. Are there other contributors to Macon State's success?
A. The real key has and will continue to be talent in the classroom.
The Macon State faculty is attuned to a metropolitan campus population
with a mix of traditional and non-traditional students, and they
understand that the needs and learning styles of younger students
and mature adults are not always the same. We make a special effort
to recruit faculty who appreciate our diversity and measure their
personal and professional achievement by the success of their students.
Going back to the Foundation, its success in dramatically increasing
private resources has been one of the most remarkable areas of growth
for Macon State. Why is it important for a public college that receives
state funding to raise private contributions?
A. State funding covers basic needs, but private resources can make
the difference between a good college and an excellent college.
Through the Foundation, enough funds were raised that we've been
able to create three endowed faculty chairs in the last several
years. That enabled us to recruit some of the brightest stars in
the field for our IT faculty, and we are now recruiting for an endowed
faculty chair in accounting to enhance our business & information
technology bachelor's degree program. Private resources also allow
the Foundation to provide a greater number of scholarships every
year, which certainly falls in line with the Regents' plan of increasing
access to higher education. The more scholarships our Foundation
can create, the more access there is for students who want to go
to college but may lack the means.
Q. One of Macon State's biggest priorities is expanding access
in Houston County. Overall enrollment at the Warner Robins Center
increased 49 percent last summer over summer 2000, when the college
introduced a four-year IT degree program there and increased the
number of core courses. What's the next step for Macon State's expansion
in Houston County?
A. With the guidance and support of Houston leaders like Rep. Larry
Walker of Perry and Mayor Donald Walker of Warner Robins, we are
moving forward rapidly on this front. A great deal has already been
accomplished. The City of Warner Robins has generously agreed to
gift the Thomas School on Watson Boulevard to the University System
for the relocation of the WRC. The Board of Regents has included
$5 million in its fiscal 2003 budget proposal to renovate the original
structure and add a 25,000-square-foot instructional facility to
the site. And, we have formed wonderful partnerships with our future
neighbors-º the Robins Federal Credit Union and the Houston
County Library. The next crucial steps will come in Atlanta as Governor
Barnes and the General Assembly make decisions about our budget
for next year. We have every reason to be encouraged. If all goes
well, we will triple our Houston instructional space in a new technology-driven
facility located just one half mile from the main gate of Robins
Air Force Base. The move would put us in even better position to
help the base with its high-tech workforce, and it dovetails perfectly
with the Regents' strategic plans and the Governor's interest in
supporting our military installations in Georgia.
Q. The strategic plan focuses a lot on increasing access to higher
education in a variety of ways. One way is through distance education.
Macon State is providing the core classes in the IT degree program
and numerous other classes online. In addition, the college's partnership
with Cox Communi-cations will extend broadband infrastructure directly
into the Macon State campus network, creating a new Internet-based
educational environment. What is your vision of the role Macon State
will play over the next few years in distance education?
A. We are creating an ever expanding "click and brick"
learning community, integrating the absolute best in traditional
and online education. Internet-mediated instruction is helping us
put a variety of teaching and learning models into place. The working
adult who needs the convenience of taking much of his or her coursework
online can do that at Macon State. The professional who doesn't
seek another degree but needs career development skills can get
that online through our Continuing Education department. The younger
student who wants to come to campus everyday and get a more "traditional"
college experience can do that at Macon State yet still take advantage
of all the Internet-based learning and support services. Perhaps
there is no such thing as a college that can be all things to all
people, but I think Macon State comes closer than most.
Q.Are there other initiatives in the works to help Macon State
expand higher education opportunities in Central Georgia?
Strategic Plan at a Glance
Among the highlights of
the "More Educated Georgia" strategic plan, the
University System will strive to:
who are intellectually and ethically informed individuals,
with defined skills and knowledge, capable of leadership,
creative endeavors, and contributing citizenship in an ever-increasing
Increase access to higher education
while maintaining quality, enhancing diversity focusing on
the needs of non-traditional students and increasing distance
Improve continuously the quality of
its curricula, research activities and international opportunities.
Increase academic productivity through
improved recruitment, increased retention, accelerated graduation,
boosting the number of credit hours students take and enhancing
continuing education opportunities and current technology.
Emphasize the recruitment, hiring
and retention of the best possible faculty, staff and administration.
Accelerate economic development by
providing, when feasible, needed graduates, appropriate academic
programs and expanding marketing of the system and its institutions
as an economic asset of the state.
A.One very exciting project
underway is the development of partnerships with some of the two-year
colleges in the region, namely Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College,
Middle Georgia College and Gordon College. Beginning in the spring
and fall, faculty in our IT division will begin offering one or two
courses in information technology on those campuses so that students
there can get started on their bachelor's degrees. This project is
going to take a little time to evolve but it's a very promising way
to expand access to our IT programs to more of rural Georgia.
Q. Many people are worried about the war against terrorism and
the economy. How do these national challenges affect colleges like
A. We are a good place to be during tough times. Our bachelor's
degree programs and professional development opportunities through
the Continuing Education department help people who have lost their
jobs - and people who are anxious about losing their jobs - gain
new skills to make them more competitive in the workforce. Also,
tough economic times are not going to change the fact that the workplace
and many other aspects of society are now driven by information
technology. Our bachelor of science in information technology is
our coin of the realm, giving people the opportunity to gain knowledge
and skills they'll be able to build on throughout the course of