Starting this fall, Bainbridge State College students majoring in education will be able to continue their baccalaureate studies with Thomas University, but take their classes at Bainbridge State on Saturdays.

On Thursday, June 13, Bainbridge State President Richard Carvajal and Thomas University President Gary Bonvillian signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will allow Bainbridge State Associate of Arts graduates wishing to earn a Bachelor of Science in Education to do so seamlessly with Thomas University.

Bainbridge State student Melanie Simmons of Cairo said the prospect of completing her degree under this arrangement is huge.

“I have two small children, and I have to have time with them during the week,” said Simmons, who works part time at Cairo High School. Instead of the chaos she was anticipating for trying to complete her degree without this access, Simmons said she is excited and ready to start her baccalaureate studies. “On the weekends, they can be with their dad while I can come to school. It’s a great thing for me.”

Valley Rogers, Bainbridge State assistant professor of education, said the response from her students has been very positive, especially non-traditional students who have been out of high school five or more years.

“This provides accessibility to a quality education program where our students can get their bachelor’s degree in Bainbridge, be certified and be ready to teach when they graduate,” Rogers said. “Since 58 percent of our students are non-traditional, this accessibility is a huge factor for them in going on to get a four-year degree.”

The MOU gives Bainbridge State students and graduates first priority for admission to courses and programs conducted by Thomas University faculty at the Bainbridge campus. Bainbridge State will provide the lower division courses, and TU will provide information and courses for the upper division. Even though the TU classes will be held in Bainbridge, students attending them will be responsible to TU for tuition and fees, financial aid, admissions and academic advising services.

Dr. Carvajal said this agreement would enable numerous students to pursue their goals of becoming teachers, and it will fulfill a critical need in this area for more middle school and secondary grade school teachers.

“While students who are interested in teaching at all grade levels will be able to train in this program, because of current needs in the local school system,  we are especially excited that prospective middle and high school teachers from our region will have an opportunity to train for a career much closer to home.  This is clearly a valuable partnership that will benefit all of southwest Georgia,” Dr. Carvajal said.

Dr. Ann Landis, provost and executive vice president of Thomas University, said this partnership provides a terrific opportunity for students at Bainbridge and southwest Georgia to earn their bachelor’s degree and a teacher certification.

“Bainbridge State College provides an excellent associate degree program in education, and Thomas University has an excellent reputation educating outstanding certified teachers to serve our region,” Dr. Landis said.

The model, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, allows students to take classes that are a combination of classroom and online instruction, and to complete field experiences at locations convenient to them, Dr. Landis said.

The two colleges have worked together to create a program model that is best for helping their students reach their personal and professional goals, Dr. Bonvillian said.

“Even though I’ve only been here seven years, I’ve actually seen this area blossom, even in those seven years,” Dr. Bonvillian said. “So this makes it very special for us to also be here to be a part of your team to deliver what you need to your students.”

Thomas University degrees offered under the MOU will be Bachelor of Science in early childhood education, middle grades education or secondary education.

For more than two years, Bainbridge State graduates pursuing four-year degrees in education have not had this type of access. Without the program outlined in the MOU, students have gone elsewhere or have been forced to end their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, Rogers said.

However with this agreement, Marvin Patterson of Colquitt is continuing his bachelor’s in middle school education. The 57-year-old will complete his Associate of Arts degree in July and had thought of going to another college to finish his four-year degree, but was not sure if it was feasible.

“When the proposal came up to be closer to home and to meet once a week on Saturdays, I liked the idea very much,” Patterson said.


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