Clark Atlanta University students will soon be able to take classes at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and vice versa, thanks to a new public-private partnership announced Wednesday.
Essence Jones, a 19-year-old freshman at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, is studying business management at the school's main campus in Clarkston.
"You can start from GED and go straight to a PhD and I feel like that's amazing because I was a GED student myself,” Jones said. “So for us to have that opportunity, it's something else."
Jones said she’s looking forward to taking classes at Clark Atlanta University toward a bachelor's degree. In the fall of 2017, Clark Atlanta University students will also be able to earn technical certificates through Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
Georgia Piedmont Technical College President Jabari Simama, who is a Clark Atlanta University alumnus, said he approached Clark Atlanta University, which is an HBCU (historically black colleges and university) about a year ago.
"If we're looking at each other as competing for the same meager dollars and competing for the same students, the fact of the matter is there are large number of students who are not touched by the community technical college system or by HBCUs," Simama said.
Clark Atlanta University president Ronald Johnson said the two schools complement each other and this partnership could help other HBCUs.
"We have a TV station, they have a set design program,” Johnson said. “You put that together, you actually have magic."
Students who want to attend Clark Atlanta University but don’t meet the academic requirements can take remedial classes at Georgia Piedmont Technical College until they are ready for college-level classes.
Graduate students will also be able to teach as adjunct faculty at Georgia Piedmont under the new agreement.
Joel Alvarado is director for Community Outreach and Engagement at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. He said it’s common for students to start at community technical colleges like Georgia Piedmont and transfer to four year universities like Clark Atlanta University without finishing their associate’s degree or certificates.
“You could use the credits that you get from Clark Atlanta and reverse transfer them and have them count towards a credential at Georgia Piedmont so you can leave with some credential,” Alvorado said. “A lot of people go to college, they get into huge debt but they don’t get anything out of it. We want to stop that.”
The new partnership will allow students to return to Georgia Piedmont and combine college credits from both institutions towards an associate degree.
The graduation rate at Clark Atlanta is 66 percent, while it’s 74 percent at Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
Presidents of both schools said they expects the move to boost enrollment at both institutions.
"The cost of education is high and therefore you lose students because they don't have the financial resources to continue," Johnson said. "If you start out with limited or negative net worth, it's very, very difficult for you to stay in school.”
Johnson said he wants his school to help students, “who started out, life happened, and now they’re coming back to get the education and skills they need."
Community Technical College
Georgia Piedmont Technical College changed its name from DeKalb Technical College in 2000 and expanded from its main campus in Clarkston to Rockdale, Newton and Morgan counties.
It used to be part of Georgia Perimeter College, which recently merged with Georgia State University.
A committee made up of administrative staff from both schools will meet periodically to follow through on the implementation of the partnership and analyze its impact.