When I wrote last spring that what Georgia Gwinnett College needs most is a mascot, I was dead wrong. And not just because I hacked off all four Arkansas fans in the county by suggesting "Razorbacks."
Given anemic application numbers and the fact that it will initially serve far fewer students than Georgia Perimeter, the community college it's supposedly replacing, what the new institution really needs is a catchy slogan. For instance: "A college of one." This line not only pays homage to the school's military roots - three top administrators hail from West Point - but may also describe its opening enrollment.
"Can you read me now?" About a third of the 7,000 students at Georgia Perimeter's Lawrenceville Campus take at least one learning support course, designed for students who don't yet read, write or compute at a college level. A surprising number of those students arrive via the Gwinnett County schools' "college prep" track.
Fortunately, Georgia Perimeter is well equipped to serve them, with a wide range of learning support courses and a long history of helping students progress into college level work. How the new college will address this overwhelming need is anybody's guess. Initial discussions have focused on a single developmental course, meaning that many Gwinnett high school grads who need significant remediation may be missing in action.
"ESL? We don't need no stinkin' ESL." Another large block of Perimeter-Lawrenceville students speak something other than English as their first language, reflecting the county's growing immigrant population. According to the recent census, more than one-fourth of Gwinnett homes house non-native speakers of English.
With one of the largest and most comprehensive English as a Second Language programs in the Southeast, Georgia Perimeter has served this population well for years. Early indications are that GGC's policy toward non-native speakers will be something more along the lines of "don't ask, don't tell."
"GGC: Because who needs to go to college at 17, anyway?" One of Georgia Perimeter's best-kept secrets is its Joint Enrollment Program, which allows high school seniors to take college courses. (It's the high schools keeping the secret, by the way, not Perimeter.) So far, GGC has shown no interest in retaining this remarkable program, allegedly because Joint Enrollment students may not legally be referred to as "plebes."
"Have it our way." From developmental courses to honors courses, from evenings to weekends, from electronic delivery to traditional classrooms, community colleges like Georgia Perimeter specialize in offering an array of educational services to meet the needs of almost any student. In contrast, it seems the academic menu at GGC will consist of three main selections: partially online, mostly online and fully online. This, we're told, is "the campus of the future."
Clearly, with Georgia Perimeter as a political casualty, GGC is the campus of Gwinnett's future. It just might not be the future - one filled with educational opportunities - that some residents envision.
Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georiga Perimeter College.