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City OKs higher-education need study
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The Hinesville City Council approved a study that will assess the higher education needs of Liberty County residents, City Manager Billy Edwards said. He said the timing for this study is right for Liberty County because of state-level budget cuts faced by schools such as Armstrong Atlantic State University, which maintains a campus in Hinesville.
“We’ve been concerned that Armstrong Atlantic might close the Liberty Center, and we feel we’re underserved already,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to make the case that because of our demographics we need a four-year university.”
The city has agreed to hire consultant David Morgan to determine what specific higher education needs are present, as well as the extent to which the current offerings — AASU and Savannah Technical College — are meeting those needs.  Morgan is a former state education administrator who is now president of Southern Educational Services, LLC.
According to the city’s proposal, nearly 1,500 students are served by the Liberty Center each semester. Previously the city and county have worked to develop financing options for a stand-alone campus for the Liberty Center, but before a long-term commitment is made to support the project, leaders want to see what the needs assessment will reveal about the county’s ongoing need and demand for higher education opportunities.
Edwards said many of the students in the county who want to pursue four-year degrees often experience financial limitations that prevent them from relocating to cities where they’d have to come up with the money to live in dormitories or in off-campus housing.
“Obviously a four-year school can provide some things that a two-year school can’t, but that’s not to say the colleges here aren’t meeting a need,” Edwards said.
Additionally, industries looking to relocate and those already in place typically seek a workforce with a variety of skills sets and education levels.
“Without a doubt, having a four-year university here enhances economic development opportunities. Having educational opportunities enhances your view by prospective industries looking to move,” he said.
The fee for the consultancy is set at $1,200 per day with the anticipated effort estimated to take 20 days, plus a $1,000 limit for travel and study costs.
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