Athens/Clarke County: Athens’ Other College
When Piedmont College opened for business in Athens a decade ago, only 64 students were enrolled, causing some to wonder what gold the 110-year-old private school expected to find in the shadows of the University of Georgia.
“We’re mostly a school for part-time working adults and have been that for 10 years,” says Piedmont President Ray Cleere. “In our evening classes, we had folks all but hanging out the windows, but during the day there wasn’t much going on because we didn’t offer freshman and sophomore work. We only offered junior, senior and graduate work.”
Still, over the past decade, the little school from Demorest in Habersham County watched as its Athens branch grew to 600 students. It’s about to get considerably larger. Last summer, Piedmont closed a deal to purchase the 93,000-square-foot sanctuary of Athens’ Prince Avenue Baptist Church, a building that will be converted into classrooms and offices. It marks the foundation of a new mission for the Athens campus. “We will move into that building and begin classes as a full, four-year degree college in the fall of 2007,” Cleere says.
Another Athens building owned by Piedmont is to be converted into classrooms, a library and a technology center. “There is a visible trend in higher education toward satellite operations and/or online operations or a combination of the two. We are the first private college of any note in Athens, Georgia.”
Piedmont’s Athens campus will market to seven or eight surrounding counties. “We’re reaching out to those students that large universities typically don’t address, unless those students have very high SAT scores,” Cleere says. “I’m looking for the HOPE [Scholarship] student that worked real hard in high school but may not have 1250 or 1300 SAT scores. We’re not interested in students who just want to go to college in Athens.”
Piedmont is affiliated with Congregational churches. “Our church relationship is a moderate relationship,” Cleere says. “We have no church governance.”