Berry College’s new Animal Science Center is a major step forward. One of many differentiators for the largest land-owning college in the world, “not settling for the status quo” is another approach to continued progress. Students are being prepared for veterinary medicine, genetics, immunology and research.

The Center is two parts: The first is a new field laboratory, already the home of research and facilitating learning with direct contact with sheep, beef and dairy herds – a timely scientific quest. The second will be a 23,000 square foot classroom and laboratory building — a $15.7 million treasure chest designed for laboratory-based activities in veterinary microbiology, reproductive physiology and more.

The equine center and the Berry Farms led by entrepreneurial students will be another beneficiary, especially when the Jersey cow genetics enterprise is factored in – an international impact. The timeliness of these additional scientific assets is likely going to be invaluable with the global focus on health, cures and vaccines.

Berry’s first of its kind Creative Technologies degree with its interdisciplinary approach and a student-run Center with new digital applications, holograms, automobile conversions to electric vehicles and the latest sensor technology continues to make a difference for the students and for innovation.

All of this adds to the investment in the Tennis Center of Rome at Berry College. Students’ experience is hands on like so many others at the college, and enhances their launch for “life after.” Six enclosed courts are ready for the first serve.

Georgia Highlands College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College are growing enrollment despite the typical decrease during the jobs-plentiful times of only a few weeks ago.

GHC is considering adding to its Continuing Education courses and is working with employers to identify needs. It’s receiving $4 million of CARES funds that, as with all colleges, is primarily for direct aid to students.

GNTC is renovating its Student Help Center during 2020. Curriculum is continually reviewed to match employer needs for students for relevance and rigor. CARES funding for GNTC is $3.18 million.

There is uncertainty about unsustainable dual enrollment state funding; it will continue but with caps on spending. Serious career focused students with high demand knowledge and skills occupations and with a pathway to employers will still benefit from this program.

Shorter University is launching a local scholarship program, a newly renovated theater and artificial turf field, and a simulation and skills practice suite for School of Nursing students.

Rounding out the new initiatives are new scholarships for up to $14,000 for students who live in certain nearby counties and a professional program series. CARES funding for Shorter is $1.2 million.

The Medical College of Georgia’s third- and fourth-year education at the Northwest Georgia campus continues its high quality reputation. The Longitudinal Integrated Curriculum is a very positive differentiator and is a credit to the many physicians who partner. This state investment goes well beyond the building, equipment and partnerships: it is the future of health care!

Floyd County Schools is adding a new Pepperell Middle School and new gym at Armuchee High. Enhancements throughout Floyd County have added much, and the College and Career Academy has been named Best in the State for its alignment with employers and results. The accessibility of the GNTC campus creates a convenient and practical interaction for students. Trending: more robotics, significant health care and eSports technology.

Rome City Schools is building a new college and career academy, to open this fall. Surveys of employers are adding to decisions about classes and curriculum. New buildings and enhancements throughout the city of Rome have added to the education experience for students.

The unknown for both systems is the impact of the decline in ELOST funds.

Darlington School’s global scope continues, along with its completed capital building plans for all levels of education on campus. The daily interaction with students from around the world is unique and considerably adds value for students. Curriculum is continuously enhanced, and technology keeps pace with innovations in education.

Unity Christian School is newly debt free, a major accomplishment for a private school.

All in all, there are bright students in every school (including St. Mary’s, Montessori School and Berry College Elementary & Middle School) and college in the area. There is a strong interest in education for a well-rounded adult and career focus on the future with a good job.

The new challenges for all education entities are the unknowns of enrollment and managing through lower revenues in the near term. Determining the delivery of education and the strong potential for students to fall behind their grade level are significant causes for pragmatic action.

A continuous challenge is to keep standards high and with relevant curriculum aligned with current and future employer needs along with high priority sectors. The quest for quality growth and higher per capita income demand the community meet this challenge.

Al Hodge is the former Rome Floyd Chamber president and CEO. He retired after more than 40 years of leading community and economic development initiatives in Rome, Augusta and Charleston, SC. He launched Hodge Consulting Services in May 2019.

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