COVINGTON - Students, staff and administration at Georgia Perimeter College took a break from normal daily activities Wednesday morning to show off a new addition to their campus.
Elected officials, supporters of education and community members from east metro Atlanta counties gathered for a special ribbon-cutting ceremony for the college's new student learning center.
"This is an exciting day for all of us," said GPC President Anthony Tricoli. "It's growing and moving ... and students are learning awesome things at this wonderful institution. ... Growth for Newton County equals opportunity in Newton County."
The new $12 million, 50,000-square-foot building will give students even more learning opportunities, he said.
It provides students attending classes on the Newton Campus - about 2,800, which is up from the nearly 1,300 that opened the campus about two years ago - a new 144-seat lecture hall, an 8,800-square-foot library, a fitness center, two tutoring labs and other rooms for student groups and tutoring.
"The building speaks for itself," said Felton Jenkins, a representative from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. "There are probably larger student learning centers in the (University System) ... but I can guarantee there is no building any better than this building. It is outfitted with every imaginable IT device."
Alea Bennett, president of college's Student Government Association, said she believes the new center will help connect the college and students better and help students who are transitioning from high school to college, thus producing student success.
The building also will house a section for the beginning of a partnership with Georgia State University. Soon students can start taking classes to earn their bachelor of science degree in early childhood education through Georgia State University on the GPC Newton campus.
"In order for us to serve a growing population ... obviously the school has to grow with it," state Senator John Douglas said. "This school has led the way, and even in the midst of a recession, it continues to grow."
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SideBar: College merger not likely
COVINGTON - Some officials from the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia might not have to worry anymore about a possible administrative merger.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new student learning center at Georgia Perimeter College's Newton Campus on Wednesday morning, state Sen. John Douglas said state officials have assured him that the two systems will remain separate.
"We are dedicated to the principle that there are two (educational) tracks, academic and technical," Douglas said. "It should stay two tracks."
Earlier this year, a state working group of educational leaders and Gov. Sonny Perdue suggested an administrative merger between technical colleges and two-year colleges in Georgia to provide a more seamless entry process for students.
"If Georgia is to compete in the global economy, we have to increase graduation rates and increase the number of students in our post-secondary programs," said Dean Alford, a Conyers resident who co-chaired the working group, in May. "This work was intended to begin a serious dialogue on how we must change the educational model to make major strides in the outcome of our educational system."
Neither college system has officially announced a merger nor denied the possibility of a merger.