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Decision to close campus is a let down
Courier editorial
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News last week that Brewton-Parker College is closing its Liberty County campus was disappointing,
It was especially disappointing with reports from many schools that the current economy has driven hordes of laid-off workers to colleges seeking new work skills. Brewton-Parker’s announcement also comes following the Army’s recent about face to add 4,000 additional troops and their dependents to the Fort Stewart community.
It’s a sad loss for our community considering the pride Liberty County felt when a few of its residents stepped forward with the resources to attract a full four-year college.
Liberty County leaders mounted a massive campaign in the early 1990s to attract opportunities for post-secondary education. Those efforts paid off with campuses for Savannah Technical College, Armstrong Atlantic State University and an Army/civilian education center on Fort Stewart.
Brewton-Parker, a private Baptist school with a main campus in Mount Vernon was in the mix and was the first to greatly expand its offerings in Liberty County with a brand new campus.
The community participated in a local Centennial Campaign for the college in the fall of 1998 after O.C. Martin, now deceased, donated the land where the campus sits on Highway 84 in Flemington. Brewton Parker alums James and Frances Roberson and Ryle Tatum made sizeable donations and local businesses contributed to the campaign, raising nearly $1 million.
The campus opened in the fall of 1999. At its height a couple years later, enrollment topped 300. The school opened the campus and auditorium to community events such as concerts and public forums. Enrollment recently started to dip and recent semesters had 150 students taking classes.
The economic downturn has affected virtually all businesses and Brewton Parker is no exception. Another satellite campus in Norman Park was also closed and areas of study are being slashed by about 50 percent at the school’s two remaining campuses. According to College President David Smith it was a business decision. “Because of the significant financial stress of the current national economy and because Brewton-Parker came into this economy in a weakened financial position, the college found itself confronted with a set of decisions that were far from ideal.”
We hope the school finds some solutions to their financial problems and we hope local leaders find a way to continue using the facilities developed here to benefit our residents.
Reports now are that the school last year paid off an estimated $1.2 million in bonds that the Liberty County Development Auhority helped it issue during construction of the campus 10 years ago. So apparently the public does not have any claims on the facilities without the school’s cooperation.
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