Thursday, July 06, 2017

Wall Street downgrade of state college's bonds is another bad indicator for rural Georgia

Wall Street analysts downgraded $28 million in bonds funding South Georgia State College in Coffee County, a small school that rural Georgians had hoped would help rejuvenate the local economy.

The move is "is the latest indicator of the difficulties of maintaining communities in parts of the state that today’s economy is leaving behind," and rural Georgia has been declining rconomicalluy for years, reports David Pendered of Atlanta-based Saporta Report. Financial challenges have caused six hospitals in rural Georgia to close since 2012, and young adults are steadily leaving for more urban areas, a trend seen nationwide. Coffee County leaders hoped the college would keep teens closer to home, providing them with skills for higher-paying jobs they hoped to attract to the region. 

The college's financial outlook is stable, but not healthy, according to Wall Street analysts who downgraded the bonds. "The downgrade reflects ongoing enrollment challenges, decline in debt service coverage and need to tap system reserves to meet debt service commitments," they wrote. 

The college was created in 2012 when the University of Georgia System consolidated Waycross College and South Georgia College. The college serves about 2,650 students from all over Georgia, 22 other states and 13 countries, according to the school's website. College leaders have planned to renovate two dorms and a student center, and build a large dining hall with a convenience store, bookstore, and cafe inside. Now the work is up in the air, but the college itself should survive as long as the University System continues to support it. 

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