Georgia Highlands College plans to close its Douglasville campus next year.

The Rome-based public college first started offering classes in Douglas County in 2009, and held classes in the old Cub Foods on Stewart Parkway for a decade. In recent years, GHC moved classes to the Murray Education Center — the old Bill Arp Elementary — on Highway 5.

Currently there are approximately 135 students attending classes at the Douglasville site, which will close at the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

Dr. Dana Nichols, GHC’s interim president, told the Sentinel in a Zoom interview Thursday the Douglasville campus has experienced “flat or declining enrollment” for a number of years.

“As a part of trying to be good stewards of our state allocated funding dollars, we’ve been looking very closely at it and it’s just not thriving,” Nichols said. “It’s just not where we need to focus our resources right now.”

GHC is partnering with the University of West Georgia, which has committed to provide GHC students with resources and pathways to complete their degrees, UWG said in a release.

“As a sister institution to Georgia Highlands in the University System of Georgia — and with our longstanding presence in Douglasville — we are able to assist in GHC’s central goal: a seamless transition for their students to continue or complete their education,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG’s president. “By providing our support we are optimizing USG resources to offer the communities we serve the types of education opportunities they need to thrive.”

UWG currently holds classes in Douglas County at the Douglasville Conference Center. Kelly said the Carrollton-based university “is in the process of building up our presence in Douglasville.”

As part of the transitional phase, UWG will engage in joint advising with GHC, offer course substitutions and transient status to current GHC students, and visit GHC’s Douglasville site to provide comprehensive academic support for all GHC students, according to a release from UWG.

Nichols said GHC’s Douglasville students have other options including taking in-person classes at one of its other campuses which include Dallas in neighboring Paulding County as well as campuses in Cartersville, Marietta and Rome.

Georgia Highlands College moved into the Douglas County School System-owned Murray Education Center in the fall of 2020 under a deal that allowed GHC to pay a $1 lease to use the space

The school system has long considered GHC an important part of the community, with many local high school students earning college credit through dual enrollment.

Nichols said there are about 36 students currently taking part in dual enrollment, which she said was not enough to make it “viable to have a physical presence” in Douglasville.

Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North called GHC’s plans to close its Douglasville campus “an immense loss to our community.”

“While Georgia Highlands decided to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and close the campus, the loss is still painful,” North said. “For years, its neighborhood location served as a convenient education destination for our parents, employees, and students.

“Both Georgia Highlands College and the University of West Georgia share our vision of equipping learners for successful futures. After conversations with Georgia Highlands College Interim President Dr. Dana Nichols and University of West Georgia President Brendan Kelly, we have designed a plan to ensure we continue meeting the needs of the learners in our community.

“Under this plan, the Douglas County School System will strengthen our partnership and cooperation with the University of West Georgia. As a result, many Georgia Highlands learning opportunities will continue through the University of West Georgia at its Douglas County location. This collaboration will ensure we continue our mission of building a community of lifelong learners and equipping them for a lifetime of success.”

Additional information on available resources will be shared in the coming weeks. GHC students with immediate needs are asked to contact the Office of the Provost at provost@highlands.edu or 678-872-8070.

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