Jason Spencer, Georgia State Representative

April 2014


Last year, the General Assembly appropriated $1 million dollars in the FY 2014 budget to renovate unused space at the College of Coastal Georgia- Camden Campus (CCG-Camden Campus) when a space utilization study by the University System of Georgia (USG) showed that this campus was only being used 23% of the time during a 40 hour instruction week. There is certainly an opportunity to efficiently use existing space to meet local workforce development needs. Currently, students from Altamaha Tech College use shared space in this building with the College of Coastal Georgia. A high priority need exists in the community for technical education and in order to meet that need, the $1 million dollars was appropriated to renovate space inside the current building.

Many in the community have asked why are we renovating this space inside the College of Coastal Georgia-Camden Campus and not constructing a brand new building for a separate technical division instead. Despite the endless rumors and innuendoes as to the reason why a new building has not been constructed for a separate technical division, the real reasons for pursuing space renovation are much more compelling than fostering a culture of constructing costly new buildings just to attract students. We should focus more on training people with the skills they need with the acceptable and unused resources we have, rather than focusing on constructing nice new buildings that would add more cost to the taxpayer.  We must be good stewards and identify the unused resources we have available to our community, by not doing so is irresponsible and wasteful.

Current economic realities and a constrained state budgetary process dictate the decision to build a new technical college campus, when the recent space utilization study reveals that the Camden Campus has 3 times more opportunity for more space utilization (See study results below). Furthermore, enrollment at the Camden Campus is dropping for various reasons. Therefore, the drop in enrollment numbers at this campus and not maximizing available space influences decision makers in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the USG, the Technical College System of Georgia and the General Assembly to devise more cost effective ways to maximize the current underutilized space to train our local workforce.  In addition, these “powers that be” have stated to me, that no more money will be allocated until what has been appropriated is spent.  Leadership in Atlanta (as well as the taxpayer) wants to see progress on this renovation and a return on the taxpayer’s investment.

The rising cost of higher education and declining state appropriations for the creation of new buildings squeezes college administrators into finding greater efficiencies. That’s why the space study completed by the USG is being seen by many campus administrators as an added hurdle to their requests for new buildings. There exists a “build it and they will come culture” in academics and with other interests groups that is very costly to the taxpayer, but the current economic times have changed and so must this culture. Consider this; the university system is by far the state’s largest holder of building space with 70 million square feet. That’s more than the space used by the nine next-largest state agencies combined, including the prison system, technical colleges and the Georgia Building Authority that leases to most state agencies.

As you can see, there is a significant opportunity to cost effectively use our existing resources to meet our workforce development needs. Many of you may not be aware, but the current CCG-Camden Campus was originally designed to be a technical college when it was first constructed but the emphasis during that time was on college education rather than technical training. Now, the pendulum as moved in the other direction because our economy is in need of a trained and skilled labor force.

While I share the desire to have a new building, which would cost $16 million to design and construct (not including the cost to hire faculty, staff and maintenance), the findings of the UGS utilization study is forcing policy makers to maximize existing underutilized resources more wisely and effectively. There may be an opportunity in the future for a new technical division campus, but a wiser course of action to maximize what resources that are not being used is taking precedent. I believe a new campus is in Camden’s future, especially with the prospects of SpaceX coming to Camden. The unused space that will be renovated with the $1 million to expand Altamaha Tech (soon to be Coastal Pines Technical College in July 2014) inside the CCG-Camden Campus could be used by Georgia Institute of Technology when SpaceX comes because Georgia Tech will want a physical presence nearby. The prospects of SpaceX coming to Camden County are looking very promising and essential groundwork is currently underway to attract them to Georgia through efforts by the Camden County Commission, Georgia Tech and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

While a brand new building for a technical division will be nice to have in the future, our immediate concern should be to address pressing workforce development needs by renovating unused space inside the CCG-Camden Campus, especially when enrollment continues to drop and existing space is being wasted. It is difficult to justify the spending of more tax dollars on a new capital project when a building right in our back yard could provide a way for workforce development services to start sooner rather than later. I expect the renovations to begin inside the CCG-Camden Campus sometime by the end of the year.

If you have questions about the space utilization study, please do not hesitate to contact me. Below, you will see enrollment numbers from the University System of Georgia and results of the space utilization study on the CCG-Camden Campus.

Enrollment at Camden Campus:

Camden Center Enrollment
Fall 2004 652
Fall 2005 718
Fall 2006 780
Fall 2007 733
Fall 2008 853
Fall 2009 873 151
Fall 2010 926 119
Fall 2011 841 127
Fall 2012 627 122
Fall 2013 518 58

Please see TCSG’s statement below:

FY 10 is the first year Altamaha: Camden County Campus was approved for enrollment in our system. Prior to that from my understanding it would have been under Coastal Georgia and we do not have any specifics other than “Main Campus” for our college tech divisions.

Data provided by Tom Daniel with the Board of Regents

CCGA Space Utilization Summary Fall 2012
Study demonstrates that the available space at the current College of Coastal Georgia Camden Campus is only being used 23% of the time. General classrooms and teaching labs can be used three times than what is currently being used today. Current underutilized space and capacity can support greater enrollment and campus activity like expanding Altamaha Tech inside the Camden Campus.