State Project Funding to Help MGA Graduate More Nurses for Dublin Area, Support Aviation Program, and Complete Cochran Campus Renovations

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2020 12:00 AM
Categories: Pressroom | School of Aviation | Faculty/Staff | School of Health and Natural Sciences | Students

Macon, GA

Middle Georgia State University (MGA) will soon admit significantly more students into the Dublin Campus nursing program, purchase nine trainer aircraft for aviation programs, and finish facility renovations on the Cochran Campus, thanks to $11 million included in project-based funding the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Brian Kemp is allocating to University System of Georgia institutions.

Of the $11 million in bond funding, which is part of the state of Georgia’s fiscal 2021 budget, $4.8 million is to expand space, equipment and faculty at the Dublin Campus to admit and graduate more nursing students. For the Eastman Campus-based School of Aviation, $5 million will pay for - in addition to the new trainer aircraft - aviation equipment and a new hangar. And on the Cochran Campus, $1.2 million will fund completion of renovations at Roberts Memorial Library and Dillard Hall.

“This is transformational bond funding for specific needs that will elevate our capacity to serve more powerfully the people of this region in the years ahead,” said Dr. Christopher Blake, MGA’s president. “We are grateful for the support of our elected state and local leaders, the Board of Regents, and our community partners during this challenging time in state government. Now we shall work to fulfill their ongoing confidence in our MGA community for this new fiscal year.”

Ember Bentley, MGA’s chief of staff and government relations officer, said this essential funding will provide additional tools needed to support the University’s students, educate and train Georgia’s workforce, and assist in strengthening communities.

“We appreciate the leadership and support from Gov. Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, Appropriations Chairmen Blake Tillery and Terry England, and our regional elected delegation,” she said. “These additions illustrate exciting growth of our institution and a career pipeline ready to fill jobs in our region and beyond.”

Bond funding for the Dublin Campus – located near Carl Vinson VA Medical Center - will add two large nursing lecture classrooms, a 20-bed hospital laboratory, a 3-bed nursing simulation lab, a technologically enhanced observation room that connects to the simulation room; and two additional nursing faculty dedicated to the Dublin Campus.

Currently, the Dublin Campus associate’s degree nursing program admits 60 students each year. The additions will allow MGA to admit 100 students each year and also expand the bachelor’s nursing degree (BSN) into Dublin. Thirty of the 100 students admitted each year will enter the bachelor’s degree program after approval is received from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing to offer the BSN program in this location.

“Middle Georgia State University is a strong partner in our region addressing the nursing shortage in our rural community, and this critical funding will enable them to meet the need by keeping potential students home instead of looking elsewhere for their education,” said Georgia Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, the state Legislature’s Majority Caucus chairman. “I am thankful to my colleagues in the General Assembly and am grateful to the Governor for his continued support of ensuring rural Georgia, healthcare, and higher education are among his top priorities.”

The nursing shortage is hitting Dublin-Laurens County hard.

“The proposed allocations for MGA in the General Assembly’s budget could not be more welcomed,” said David Whitmer, director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin. “As our experience with COVID-19 has demonstrated, a shortage in skilled nurses is a vulnerability that our society cannot afford and the proposed funding would greatly enhance our ability to work with MGA to produce an ongoing supply of nursing professionals.”

Whitmer said that the funding would facilitate current collaboration between the VA and MGA by supporting its Transition-to-Practice RN Residency Program (RN-TTP) started by the VA in 2011 and at the Dublin VA in 2018. RN-TTP allows VA to hire post-graduate RNs with less than one year of professional nursing experience and assists their transition from academia to a complex practice environment. Graduates may be offered permanent employment with the VA.

Donald R. Avery, president and CEO of Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, noted that MGA is forced to turn away qualified nursing school candidates on the Dublin Campus due to lack of funding for instructors.

“Since about 80 percent of RN graduates from MGA remain in the area, the impact of this grant is significant,” he said. “We are grateful to our leaders who have recognized this need for more nurses in Middle Georgia.”

“Our Dublin Campus has always been vital to MGA’s nursing program,” said Dr. Tara Underwood, dean of MGA’s School of Health and Natural Sciences. “The facility expansions and additional faculty these funds make possible will help us raise the profile of our program there as we help the region meet critical workforce needs in nursing.”

The total amount of funding and the wide-ranging nature of the projects show that state leaders recognize the economic impact MGA can continue to have on the region, said state Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, who is Majority Caucus vice chairman.

“Middle Georgia State, which still serves an important role as an access institution, is committed to ensuring that the next generation of professional workers are equipped to advance our state’s economy,” he said. “I believe these projects will help the University continue to live up to this promise.”