More Growth Ahead for Miles College
More Growth Ahead for Campus and Academic Programs at Miles College
Miles College, the historically black college or university in the Birmingham metro area, is about to grow again, with plans in place for expanding its physical campus and its academic programs.
The growth, says President George T. French, is aimed at providing additional opportunities for students and strengthening Birmingham and surrounding communities. “When you have a strong HBCU, you have a strong middle class. That means you strengthen the African American workforce. This impacts Birmingham. It impacts Alabama.” French, who has been president for approximately 8 years at the college affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, envisions his institution having the same kind of impact on the Birmingham community as the Atlanta University Center has had on that city. “We can have our own Morehouse or own Spelman right here,” he said.
Morehouse, an all-male college, and Spelman, an all-female college, both have reputations for attracting the best and brightest African American students from throughout the country. Both colleges, as well as Clark Atlanta University, have strong recruitment programs targeted to include Birmingham’s best and brightest. “We want more of the best and brightest to attend Miles College,” French said. “When they attend college in this area, there is a greater chance that they will look for employment here, go to church here, and start a family here. They would be more likely to remain a permanent part of our community.”
With growing academic programs, such as the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence, Miles offers an academic environment that nurtures and challenges talented students, the president said. Devin Jenkins, a freshman from Fitzgerald, Georgia, could have attended any college in the country after being awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jenkins chose Miles. That scholarship will pay the cost of his education through graduate school. “When I came for my visit to Miles, I was impressed with the campus and with the opportunity to study abroad through the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence,” Jenkins said. He is majoring in management information systems, and looks forward to a career working in the intelligence community. “The recruiter knew each student by name. The faculty and staff knew the students. I wanted to be on a college campus where I could have the same kind of attention,” he said.
TIME TO GROW
Attracting more students means that the campus must grow, French said. “This fall we had to literally turn away 150 to 200 students because we did not have enough space for them,” he said.
Miles is laying the ground work for a $20 million capital program that includes a new student center, a new dormitory and a new welcome and advising center, French said. Currently, Miles enrolls about 1,700 students, the president said he would like for the regular enrollment to increase to 2,000. Miles is also continuing its work on expansion of the North Campus. In 2007, Miles purchased 41 acres and the former Lloyd Noland Hospital. The college has no debt remaining on that $3.5 million purchase. He wants to link the North Campus to the main campus, which occupies about 35 acres. Miles had proposed acquiring the three blocks of public housing between the two campuses, and relocating the residents into more permanent housing. French said that the proposal requires approval from the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development. When the North Campus is completed, it will include a School of International Studies and Public Policy, a health and wellness center and a performing arts center. “You must have facilities in order to grow your enrollment. We have had a steady pattern of that for several years now. It will continue because of student and community interest and support. We have also had strong corporate support for Miles College from Birmingham and other parts of the state," said President French.
In 2007, Miles College launched the Miles Ahead Capital Campaign with a goal of raising $30 million. That campaign raised $41 million, French said. “The campaign was a success, even though it began during a period of economic down turn...Some suggested that we delay the campaign. We said if there was ever a time when we need support it’s now, during the down turn.” Some supporters backed away from the campaign. Others kept their commitments and more supporters came on board, the president said.
The successful capital campaign is only part of the Miles College’s financial success. The value of its endowment assets increased 66 percent from 2005 to 2010. At the same time, net assets for 2009 to 2010 were $46.3 million compared with $36.6 million in 2005 to 2006, according to college financial reports. The growth comes as result of increase in enrollment and increase in corporate support over the years. French said, “This happens when there is a consistency of leadership.” French has been president of Miles for approximately 8 years, and he has built and enhanced a team of leaders.
French, an ordained minister in the CME Church, first worked at Miles under the late President Dr. Albert J. Sloan II. He was Director of Institutional Planning and Development, and Dr. Sloan groomed him as his successor. Dr. French said, “The growth at Miles College as well as the achievements of our students and faculty is fueling a new wave of pride in this institution...When a prospective student is accepted into Miles, he or she will be excited, because this an exciting place for learning. When an alumnus, corporate supporter or community member makes a contribution, they’ll know that their dollars are making a difference in our community and in our future.”
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