Albany State University Interim President Marion Fedrick is the leading candidate to be named as permanent president of the school at a University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents meeting scheduled for next week, according to a report in the Albany Herald.
albany state university
Albany State University will consolidate its academic programs and divisions into three colleges beginning this fall.
Albany State University officials say that trends in applications and returning students will yield a stabilized enrollment mark for the upcoming fall semester.
When executive leadership turns over at an institution of higher education, context matters. In some instances, executives who’ve served long tenures retire with preparations made and accreditation, financial solvency, and steady enrollment all neatly packaged to deliver to the next CEO. When that next executive emerges, the product of a dutiful national search involving boards, alumni, and key stakeholders, institutions continue to enjoy the responsible and predictable growth that serves the educational and employment needs of students, faculty, staff, and the economic needs of the region.
Faculty and graduates of Savannah State University have written letters of concern to leaders of the University of Georgia System about school president Cheryl Davenport Dozier. The stakeholders say that Dozier, who was appointed president in 2011 after serving as interim president and associate provost for institutional diversity at the University of Georgia, has not been proactive on solving issues of campus crime, financial management or strained relations with faculty and staff.
In most instances, faculty and alumni rallying against a president would create buzz about a possible removal, especially for a public HBCU which in most states, is an obstacle to large predominantly white institutions recruiting more black students and seeking land expansion.
Georgia is a little different from most HBCU states. In the last three years, two of its three public HBCUs have been placed in the geographic footprint of consolidated predominantly white institutions. Fort Valley State University and Savannah State both are now car rides away from campuses that have or will see enrollment gains, primarily among minority students.
Since the 2013 consolidation of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College, Middle Georgia State has gained university status and has increased enrollment for the first time since 2013. African American student enrollment has been stable at 34% between 2013-2016.
At FVSU, total enrollment has declined from 3,180 students in 2013 to 2,679 in 2016, and its black student population percentage has fallen from 96% to 90% over the same period. Last fall, the University System of Georgia attempted to falsely depict enrollment data from the consolidated Albany State University, comparing year-to-year data of a combined school with data from a single institution the year prior.
Since 2011, Fort Valley State has had three permanent presidential appointees and Albany State University is looking for its third permanent president over the same period.
Savannah State will face similar challenges. Instead of the 25 miles of duplicative institutional distance between FVSU and Middle Georgia, it is only nine miles away from its newly consolidated neighbor in Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus. While it has had stability in leadership for the past seven years, enrollment and resource declines will soon hit the airwaves and front pages of newspapers.
There’s no reason for the USG to try and force Dr. Dozier out now over complaints about campus culture and crime. If the recent history of the USG’s strategy is any indicator, there will be plenty of time for system leaders to celebrate her retirement in less than a year or so – right about when Georgia Southern begins to emerge as the next great hope for black students in Georgia public higher education.
With Kente Ceremonies and all:
The Georgia Southern Armstrong Campus in Savannah will hold a Lavender Graduation to celebrate the commencement of LGBTQ+ students. During the event, participants will enjoy refreshments, a guest speaker and the presentation of lavender graduation cords and tassels. The event, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, will take place at noon in the Ogeechee Theatre in the Student Union.
The Kente Ceremony and the Latino Ceremony will also be held on the Armstrong Campus. Participants in the Kente Ceremony will receive the Kente stole and participants in the Latino Ceremony will receive the Sarape stole. The events, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, will take place at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, in the Ogeechee Theatre in the Student Union.
This takeover, or versions of the same is happening all to HBCUs all over the south, in far more covert ways. But its not suprising to see such blantant execution from a state that values tradition unlike any other, including boxing black people and institutions out of opportunities to flourish in our own communities on our own terms.
Alcorn State University President Alfred Rankins is headed back to another familiar place, returning to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning as its first black commissioner of higher education. Dr. Rankins, who previously served deputy commissioner, was vaulted to two HBCU presidencies from that post; an interim appointment at Mississippi Valley State University, and a permanent appointment at Alcorn State.
Rankins is the latest in a recent succession of state university systems promoting black executives to lead HBCUs from within the system ranks.
Albany State University Interim President Marion Fedrick, who previously served as the University System of Georgia’s Vice-Chancellor of Human Resources. She replaced Art Dunning, who prior to leading ASU had turns in the system office leading its divisions of services and human resources as an assistant or senior vice chancellor.
Savannah State University President Chery Dozier Davenport, who served as an associate provost and chief diversity officer at the University of Georgia prior to her HBCU appointment.
Fort Valley State University President Paul Jones, who served as senior vice president at Georgia College and State University.
Elizabeth City State University outgoing Chancellor Thomas Conway, who had an eight-year term of service as vice-chancellor at Fayetteville State University, but who spent 32 years at North Carolina State University.
North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold Martin served as UNC System senior vice president prior to his chancellor appointment, but also served as chancellor of Winston-Salem State University.
There is a drawback to this kind of direct feed from systems into HBCU presidencies; in some cases, leaders have been selected without the benefit of a search or input given by the campus community.
In other respects, students and alumni have growing concerns about the investment of leaders who have worked closely with system leaders who have not always held black college campuses in high regard. Elizabeth City State, Albany State, and Alcorn State have all fallen victim.
In the end, there is little pushback for system leaders who appoint or who pipeline presidents into black colleges with little examination of institutional fit or skill for the job. But until there is pushback from students and alumni, more public colleges will find this kind of culture soon arriving at their institution – for better or worse.
The Hechinger Report recently produced a report on African-American and Latino in-state student enrollment trends at public flagship campuses. The results were a dismal showing of disparities between the kind of access black students have at large, publicly funded research institutions.
A new enrollment report from the University System of Georgia says that total and full-time student enrollment at Albany State University is down by an average of six percent from 2016, while the rest of the system’s public colleges and universities are up three percent and have set a new system enrollment record.
For Georgia citizens who aren’t paying attention, the headline of down enrollment at ASU may cause concern about why the system consolidated historically black ASU with predominantly white Darton State College, and if that consolidation is working according to the new numbers. The framing is made more challenging as ASU officials themselves have co-signed the system’s report.
Our incoming first-time, freshman class grew 66 percent with 1,430 students enrolled for this fall semester. Last year we had 863 students enroll for fall semester 2016. This is encouraging; however, we must also be addressing how we support students so they keep advancing towards college completion.
Meanwhile, we also experienced a 68 percent increase in our Dual Enrollment program. This program provides a wonderful opportunity for the community and ASU, as we help high school students get a head start on earning college credits.
To be clear though, all of us need to act as recruiters for Albany State and work together to address our enrollment challenges. As announced last week, the transition team is heavily weighted with enrollment management experts.
But analyzing enrollment data is a little more complex than this – especially when considering the timetables, missions and resources involved in mashing two institutions together in a quick and public way.
First, Albany State and Darton State were not formally consolidated until Jan. 1, 2017, which would seemingly mean that marketing strategy, personnel and materials were still not in place even as the two schools worked through consolidation for half of 2016. It is unreasonable to expect that a new Albany State, a controversial new institution with a slate of degree options, would be able to reverse downward trends over the course of a spring semester and a summer in 2017.
And the term “new Albany State” is key here. In all of the documents and public disclosures about this consolidation, the USG has proclaimed that Darton would not be merged into ASU, but that they would be consolidated into a new school with a new mission and expanded degree offerings.
So how is it that a brand new school’s Fall 2017 enrollment data has any prior year analysis base? In theory, this is year one of the “new” Albany State, and should be viewed as the first year of data according with the system’s description of what the school actually is.
Which brings up the most important point – the data being used to compare Fall 2017 to Fall 2016 is either from one of two angles; the “old” ASU’s enrollment data, or the combined enrollment data of Albany State and Darton State prior to the consolidation.
Here’s the total enrollment data for both schools from 2015, according to the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
And here’s the numbers from 2016, courtesy of the USG enrollment report.
And here’s the 2017 enrollment count.
Both schools lost students from previous years. But it is difficult to say that two schools performing independently of each other throughout the majority of 2016, with different personnel, tactics, missions and recruitment objectives, should be melded together and measured against the performance of a “new” institution comprised of both campuses.
If we are comparing one institution to one institution, here is how the numbers would actually look.
Albany State University
FA 2015 Enrollment – 3,492
FA 2016 Enrollment – 3,041
FA 2017 Enrollment – 6,615
Darton State College
FA 2015 Enrollment – 5,471
FA 2016 Enrollment – 4,120
FA 2017 Enrollment – 6,615
If taken independently, the “new” Albany State University more than doubles the enrollment of the “old” Albany State, and adds substantially to Darton State’s prior year numbers. In context, two schools consolidated in the second half of 2016 and formally consolidated on new year’s day of 2017 lost more than 500 students collectively but grew by an average of 3,000 students from their independent operations the year before.
Why is this important? Because the “new” Albany State University remains in mission and designation as an HBCU, and with flagship public HBCU campuses around the country breaking enrollment records, the narrative of Georgia making an HBCU bigger to serve more students, offer more degrees and conduct more research deserves a fair assessment in how the public is primed to view the institution.
But more than this, the University System of Georgia cannot act like its students, faculty, administrators, and citizens are idiots. Either ASU is a new institution beginning a bright future with one year of metrics behind it, or the consolidation is working to help two formerly underperforming campuses grow under one institutional banner.
But the USG doesn’t get to sell a notion of failure and struggle just because it is a historically convenient label for HBCUs, and believable by most casual observers of higher education. The USG needs to own the consolidation responsibly, honor the gains it has created for the region, and fund the prospects of this “new” HBCU with unlimited potential.
The Fountain City Classic between Fort Valley State University and Albany State University drew more than 30,000 HBCU football fans to Columbus, GA last week, bringing a major boost to small businesses in the region.
Albany State University homecoming is one of the biggest economic drivers of the year for the city and region. WALB-TV profiles an examples of that growth through the eyes of ASU graduate and local catering manager David Milliner.
Most businesses in Albany are gearing up for Albany State University’s big homecoming weekend that traditionally brings in the largest number of visitors each year. Staff at Sonny’s BBQ restaurant prepared to serve up mouth-watering ribs to thousands of hungry visitors who are in town to cheer on the Golden Rams. “It warms my heart to see that the community rallies around Albany State University,” said Catering Manager David Milliner.
“It warms my heart to see that the community rallies around Albany State University,” said Catering Manager David Milliner. “Anything that we can do to further the education of our young people in this area, we want to do it,” explained Milliner.
The University System of Georgia estimated the university’s total regional economic impact at $289 million in 2016, $4 million more than the previous year.
ALBANY, – A new study released Aug. 21 by the University System of Georgia showed the new Albany State University (ASU) had a $289 million economic impact on the Albany region in 2016. The total amount includes employment, as well as direct and indirect spending.