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Town-Gown Partnerships Add Value to Communities

May 5, 2015  |  Dr. Susanna L. Baxter
Dr. Susanna Baxter
Georgia’s private, not-for-profit col­leges are valuable partners with communities across this great state. Not only do these colleges and uni­versities educate more than 76,000 diverse students, many come from other states and nations. The import­ing of students to Georgia brings welcome dollars to local businesses. But, that’s not the only way private colleges boost local economies.
 
Non-profit colleges add value to communities through creative partnerships. Cities and colleges chose to partner to re-vitalize downtown areas. An example, Point University recently relocated to West Point. Thanks to this partnership, students are now studying in the former West Point-Pepperell textile plant, city streets enjoy the sounds of student foot traffic, city athletic parks see greater use and the city-scape is beautified.
 
“What a great partner we have in Point Univer­sity,” City Manager Ed Moon said. “We are fortunate to have the university as a part of our community. Our willingness to work together to grow the city and the university will have a long-lasting positive impact on the citizens of West Point and the Point University students will have a long lasting impact on the world.”
 
Partnerships extend beyond infrastructure and re­vitalization, reaching into the classroom to improve local education. Berry College is joining the South Rome Early Learning Center to provide valuable sup­port to improve pre-school options that will build economic vitality in this depressed area. When the learning center opens in August, teachers will use curriculum developed by Berry faculty. Additionally, Berry is providing two reading teachers, a linguist, a developmental psychologist, a sociologist, a special­ist in education in urban schools and an expert in English of Speakers of Other Languages. Berry Col­lege teacher education program interns and students will also help at the center to assure children receive personalized attention.
 
In addition to educational partnerships with local school systems and communities, many private col­leges, like Andrew, Truett-McConnell and Young Har­ris colleges, offer dual-enrollment courses for high school students wishing to get a jumpstart on their college education. In a number of these cities and towns, the private college is the only option for dual-enrollment. Without these colleges, students would have to drive to other counties or have no advanced course offerings conveniently available.
 
The limited space of this column prohibits provid­ing more examples of partnerships. I could just as well have talked about the great partnerships Savan­nah College of Art and Design, Mercer, Brenau and Oglethorpe universities have with their local com­munities, to name just a few.

“The college and the community are facing a sig­nificantly new environment together,” said LaGrange College president Dan McAlexander at a recent city council meeting. “I think it’s important for us to have the conversation about how we can serve the citi­zens of the community and serve the college in a mutually beneficial way.”
 
I strongly encourage municipalities to consider furthering community partnerships with local non-profit private colleges. The synergy gained through collaboration is transformative.
 
Dr. Susanna L. Baxter is president of the Georgia Inde­pendent College Association, representing 26 not-for-profit institutions in Georgia.
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