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GPTC President: Get GED and college degree in two years
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The president of the United States made a proposal to offer citizens a free community college education during last month's State of the Union Address.

During the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners work session Tuesday morning, Dr. Jabari Simama, president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College, gave a presentation where he spoke of a new initiative that sounds very similar.

The Georgia Piedmont Advantage (GPA), program will offer people an opportunity to be simultaneously enrolled in a general education degree (GED) program while taking college courses to get their associate's degree, says Simama.

"That's a new concept because generally you got (to have a GED) before you can go to college," he said. "We are working with our state systems to develop this program for accelerated opportunities where they can work on their GED and they can work on their college degree at the same time."

GED classes for those enrolled in this program would have their assignments specifically geared toward the degree they're pursing.

"The math and English will be conceptualized to what they do so there's a relevance," said Simama. "So the conceptualized learning, they tend to retain what their learning a lot easier."

There are seven programs - Commercial Truck Driving, Diesel Mechanic, Early Childhood Education, Healthcare Technologies, Information Technology, Practical Nursing and Welding - that will allow students to be dual enrolled. Simama says the school has identified "special" funding from the state level for students who want to pursue a career in these fields.

"You're pretty much guaranteed that you can get an education for free," he said. "We all know President Barack Obama talking about two years of free community college education, but we got a program here that's almost the same."

During the 2015 State of the Union Address, Obama proclaimed he wanted "to lower the cost of community college-- to zero." The proposal calls for the federal government and state governments to pick up the tab on the cost of higher education.

All three members of the board seemed intrigued by the GPA program.

"I'm really excited about this," said Post 2 County Commissioner Doreen Williams, a retired teacher of 30 years. "I think anytime you have an opportunity for education, for anyone no matter what their age or background, its fine."

The GPA program takes about two years to complete. The school will focus on recruiting individuals without a high school diploma and unemployed or underemployed workers for the program.

Simama says that he's looking for the county's help in identifying prospects for the program.

"Once you complete it, you have gone from poverty and no opportunity to middle class and the American dream in less than 24 months," said Simama. "I think that's a program we can all get together and really promote."

Georgia Piedmont Technical College has two campuses, one in DeKalb and Newton Counties, near Rockdale County.