A fully accredited two-year college of the University System of Georgia, Swainsboro based East Georgia College is home today to almost 1,200 students taking classes on Georgia Southern's campus. Since 1997, more than 2,500 students have attended East Georgia College at Statesboro (EGCS), and enrollment at EGCS has risen again this year by more than 260 students over last fall's attendance.
Even though EGCS uses Georgia Southern's classrooms for instruction, the growth in enrollment has resulted in a shortage of space for EGCS administrators and professors. Currently operating out of a renovated house located in the Campus Courtyard apartment complex, EGCS officials are looking forward to moving to their new offices on Fair Road in the renovated Southwind Plaza business complex.
"Look around, you can see that we are completely out of space," said Caroline McMillan, director of East Georgia College at Statesboro. "With three full-time staff members and 17 full-time faculty in Statesboro, we are literally using every square inch of this building, and it simply isn't enough."
East Georgia has entered into an agreement to lease almost 13,000 square feet of space in Southwind, and expects to move into their new offices in December.
"Each of our faculty will have an office, and there will be a science classroom, computer lab, academic instruction resource center, and a conference room," she said. "We are so excited about our new offices, and how it will make things so much better and convenient for both our faculty and students."
McMillan said that the vast majority of instruction will continue in Georgia Southern classrooms, and she does not expect the move to affect the relationship between the two.
In what is almost a seamless relationship, EGCS students pay technology and recreation fees to Georgia Southern allowing them to participate in cultural events, campus meal plans, intramural sports, library use, fitness extension facilities, athletic tickets, and band. Some EGCS students even live in university housing at this time. McMillan said that housing will not be available to EGCS students after spring semester when new dorm construction gets underway resulting in the demolition of some existing dorms on the university's campus.
Dr. Linda Bleicken, vice president academic affairs and provost of Georgia Southern University, was quick to acknowledge East Georgia's accomplishments and the positive relationship that exists between the two.
"Georgia Southern University and East Georgia College have had and continue to have a strong relationship," she said. "Our relationship dates back to the 1990s and we are certainly supportive of their efforts as they continue to grow and expand their presence in Statesboro."
East Georgia College's role has changed somewhat over the last several years according to McMillan.
"Prior to 1997, we were a feeder school to Georgia Southern," she said. "If a student was unable to get into Georgia Southern they were referred to East Georgia, formerly known as Emanuel County Junior College. Now, students can apply directly to East Georgia if that is what they want to do."
There is a clearly a demand for what East Georgia has to offer as enrollment is increasing and many students are looking at the institution has a stepping stone to higher education.
Twins, Reina and Rena Heard, recently graduated from East Georgia with two-year associate degrees in business administration. Both anticipate graduating from Georgia Southern with degrees in public relations next fall.
"It was better for me to start out at East Georgia," Reina Heard. "It was more of a homey atmosphere and one-on-one. All of our courses transferred, and we will both graduate within four years. I feel like I would have been lost had I gone to Georgia Southern right out of high school."
Heard said she never felt alienated while attending East Georgia classes on the GSU campus.
"Honestly, I felt like I was a GSU student," she said. "I got all of the benefits, and always felt welcomed."
McMillan said East Georgia's faculty works very closely with the students and is anxious for them to be successful whether it is the achievement of a two-year associate's degree or simply meeting the 30 hour (with a 2.0 GPA) requirement to transfer to Georgia Southern.
"Our faculty is dedicated to their students, and many of our faculty are very accomplished," she said.
One of the faculty members cited by McMillan is Dana Nevil, Ph.D., who recently finished serving as the chairperson of the Georgia Board of Regents' Academic Committee on English.
"The two year college's mission is focused primarily on teaching," she said. "We are not a research institution. For our students to be successful, we really need to work with them as closely as possible giving them a great deal of attention. That is what we try to do."
Kelli McGahee is an EGCS student preparing to transfer to Georgia Southern.
"I am looking forward to making the move," she said. "For me, it was smarter to start off at EGC. It felt like a small environment on a big campus, and some people just need that when they graduate from high school. It was perfect me, and now I am ready to move on."