Darton College continues to grow - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Darton College continues to grow

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As we look for the bottom of the plummeting economy, it seems education is booming. Colleges have a $12-billion  impact on Georgia's economy.

Darton College's impact on the Albany area is more than $110-million a year and that's growing as the college grows. School leaders feel those projects will bring more students to campus.

Much of the education zone is now a construction zone at Darton College.  "It's a fantastic time. It's a fantastic time for Darton. It's fantastic growth on campus," said John Jambro with Skanska USA Building, Inc.

For much of the day, heavy equipment moves back and forth across dirt on campus. Wednesday, school leaders broke some of that ground on a $19-million expansion to their student center that will have everything from a pool and bowling alleys to a climbing wall.

"I think that this project here will entice students to come to our institution where they might not otherwise," said Darton College President Dr. Peter Sireno.

That's not all students have to look forward to. There's a 25,000 square foot nursing building in the works and soon the school will complete construction of its first on-campus housing project. "Together they'll create an exponential campus that is involved and active and that's what we're looking for," said Darton Vice-President of Student Affairs Dr. Gary Barnette.

The boom in construction comes as Darton is seeing record enrollment.  "Our past Fall was a record enrollment for us. We had 5,019 students and the way our inquiries and applications are coming in, it looks like we'll have another record year," said Dr. Barnette.

"Darton has grown about 85 percent in the last ten years," said Dr. Sireno.

Sireno says projects have to evolve with that enrollment growth on campus and that has an effect far beyond the school. "All of these projects are economic development contributors," said Dr. Sireno.

Nearby businesses like Beef O' Brady's benefit from Darton students and staff.  Plenty of land is available close to campus for even more growth to come along. "I actually see some private investors building in this area for students and I actually say in five years, that there will be 2 to 3,000 students that will be housed in this area attending Darton College," said Dr. Sireno.

It's proof that colleges like Darton do more than just educate.  They stimulate the local economy.

The school expects the student center expansion to increase enrollment by at least 500.  It should be complete by next summer. The new student housing should be ready for move-in this summer. The nursing building should be complete by January.  

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