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Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 12:42pm

Proposed Closures Target Rural Schools

Eighteen Georgia technical college campuses may face closure.

Officials with the state Technical College System say, the satellite operations cost too much and serve too few students.

A list of shutterings proposed this week includes campuses where full-time enrollment has fallen below 200 students.

Evans, Cook and Hancock Counties could lose their tech school facilities.

Sparta Mayor William Evans didn't know his area's Hancock County Center was at risk until contacted by a reporter.

Evans says, the nearest alternative campus is a 50 mile round trip.

"This center is in what the state has labeled as the poorest community in the state of Georgia," Evans says. "And you're going to pull the school now? Come on. Jobs are not abundant here. We don't need the school closing. We need help."

Woodbine State Representative Jason Spencer says, students feel blindsided.

"The community could have swallowed that pill a little easier if they were to just give some type of presentation to the public," Spencer says. "But it was just done very quickly on a very greased locomotive."

Technical College System spokesman Mike Light says, nothing is set in stone and a lot depends on legislative funding.

"If we do have to look into something like this, we will take into consideration additional things like how important that facility is to that community and the people it serves," Light says.

Closing all 18 campuses would save the system about $4 million.

But about 1,200 mostly rural students could have to commute to schools farther away.