DALTON, Ga.-Matthew Bearden grew up in the Dalton area, and when the time came to go to college he wanted to stay nearby - which he did by going to Dalton State College.
Now the first-year education major might be able to stay even longer to pursue a master's degree.
Dalton State unveiled its academic master plan Thursday. It includes the elimination of several programs, but also long-term aspirations to one day offer master's degrees in several areas including education.
"Ambitious" is how Dr. Sandra Stone, vice president for academic affairs at the college, described the plan she presented at the school.
"It's a plan to move us into more of a senior college status where we have a wider array of four-year degree programs to offer to students who want to stay in the area or come here to study," Stone said.
The plan includes the deactivation of primarily associate degree programs in which enrollment has decreased or which simply do not meet workplace demands anymore, she said.
Trend data shows most affected programs, such as economics and philosophy, have had enrollment in single digits every year since 1997, Dalton State spokeswoman Pam Partain said.
Stone said making the decision to cut those programs wasn't difficult, but any further cuts will be.
The academic plan comes more than a month after school officials presented a master plan designed to serve a student body of 8,000 for the next 10 to 12 years. It includes more residential housing, parking and an expansion of a student center.
Dalton State College Foundation Chairwoman Sara "Skeeter" Pierce said everything at the college is coming together.
"We will increase the quality of our students and raise the retention rate because we have a lot of kids who come here and don't [graduate, either because] they're not ready for college or it's not what they thought it was going to be," she said.
"So, as these programs are opened up, we will get a better-quality student and also a student who will stay here the four years and hopefully stay in our community," she said.
Bearden said that a current Dalton State student who wants to pursue a master's degree has to go to Chattanooga or Kennesaw, Ga., to do so.
"I was excited to hear they are eventually planning on getting some master's degrees," he said.
Stone said the plan, developed over the last several months based on conversations with faculty, students and the community at large, aligns with the strategic plans of both the college and the Board of Regents.
Money to pay for the programs, which will be implemented gradually after an approval process, will come from various sources including reallocating current funds, external grant money and from continuous reassessment of existing programs, she said.
For the bachelor of science in nursing program, which Stone hopes will be up and running by January 2012, they will reallocate some funding internally, she said.
The college anticipates starting the program with 15 students the first year and increasing it to 25 for the second, she said.
For the other dozen or so bachelor's programs, from music to forensic science, Stone said she hopes to submit them for approval within the next academic year and see them implemented from now through 2015.