Public Private Partnership Fund Launched by San Diego State University in Georgia

San Diego State University in Georgia (SDSU) announced the launch of the Public - Private Partnership fund (PPF) at an event held in Marriott Tbilisi Hotel on Wednesday.

The first of its kind US University degree program in Georgia has been developed with a USD 30 million investment from the US Government, making it possible to form the San Diego State University - Georgia (SDSU- G) with more than 200 students from all over the country, 15 international students from six different countries and nine American exchange students from the California Campus. The university offers internationally accredited Bachelor of Science Degree programs. SDSU students will earn American degrees upon graduation. The project is implemented within the framework and with the financial assistance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s second compact.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields are considered to have a great lack of professionals in modern Georgia, largely the reason why the students at SDSU are expected to be among the future leaders and innovators in STEM. The newly established Public Private Partnership (PPP) Fund has as its major goal to generate financial resources to make these American degree programs affordable for talented, successful, socially deprived young people through scholarships. The aim of the fund is also to use the financial resources gained from the public private partnerships for the development of students’ innovative projects and studies. Georgian students will also have the chance to participate in special exchange study visits to the main campus in San Diego California.

In return, SDSU will offer trainings to the staff of the PPP Fund’s partnering organizations and companies, who will be able to offer work placements and internships to successful students in their respective organizations, thus making the process mutually beneficial for the students and for those organizations interested in cooperation with the recently established venture.

In addition being a supporter of the PPP Fund brings the companies numerous possibilities, brand exposure and publicity, or getting connected with American business representatives through visits and exchanges. It also allows access to cutting-edge industry research.

The PPP Fund launch is primarily aimed at assisting and fostering STEM education in Georgia, thus forging its economic growth and creating a high-qualified workforce which will be in high demand in Georgia, throughout the region, and globally. As Ian Kelly, US Ambassador to Georgia, said in his speech, “With the SDSU Georgia Public Private Partnership Fund, even more bright students will benefit from the opportunity to get a US education right here, at home, in critical fields like biochemistry, and computer engineering. I would like to assure you that the US government strongly supports this program, that this is a critical part of our investment in Georgia’s success and I encourage you to think creatively about how you can support this joint US- Georgian initiative.”

Ketevan Natriashvili, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, also underlined the importance of the emerging public-private sector cooperation, specifically in the educational field, noting that although it is widely practiced internationally, it is still relatively new to Georgia and that fostering such cooperation assists in the sustainable development of the country. “Educated professionals are those who can create a better future for the country, those who create intellectual resources and empower the economy. It is vital for the private sector to support these resources. And education needs to be accessible for the socially vulnerable and minority students in order to fully communicate their potential,” Natriashvili said.

The educational reform is an essential part of the government’s four stage reform plan that seeks to adjust the educational system in Georgia to meet modern requirements, needs and challenges.

“It is crucial to develop human capital, which may be a long-term goal to achieve, but is still very important for the development of our country,” said Ketevan Bochorishvili, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development. “Today we see the private and public sectors standing together and it’s a step towards integration which will help us to create a competitive environment based on education and skills, ensuring that there are high professionals in the country that the business sector can benefit from.”

Dr. Stephen L. Weber, President Emeritus of San Diego State University, a special guest at the event, made a presentation on Public Private Partnership practices, explaining why they are so mutually beneficial in the case of universities.

“The secret of success of San Diego State University, as well as other State Universities in the US, lays in a successful public-private partnership tradition,” he said. “Only 19 percent of university funding comes from the state of California, whereas USD 130 mln was gained from private corporations last year. Another major portion of income for the university comes from philanthropy,” he added.

From investments from private companies or individuals, last year SDSU saw USD 107 mln.

“Ours is a knowledged-based economy, and universities are repositories of knowledge,” Weber said. “American universities are major economic drivers in their communities and these programs are about giving Georgians a chance to develop the skills the country needs. It is a wise investment in the future of Georgia and in the future of young man and woman.” Dr.Weber said, generously donating USD 1000 himself to the fund at the end of his presentation.

Dr. Ken Walsh, Dean, SDSU Georgia, talked about the PPP Fund goals and concepts.

“The objective of the project is to build a STEM workforce in Georgia with internationally recognized degrees that can be used to build investment in Georgia, to improve the capacity for higher education and, through that, attract more investment and fuel economic growth. For these degree programs we’re building a wide range of infrastructure to support laboratories at the same level as in San Diego. This year we’re also embarking on a new effort to add civil and construction engineering, so we’ll be able to address technology, information technology, bio-technology and infrastructure- three critical need areas for Georgia.”

He went on to point out that many of the students at SDSU are from socially deprived families, and although the goal of the project was to give Georgian students a US education locally at a low cost, and that objective is fulfilled, it is still expensive to obtain an American degree in Georgia, which is where the help of the public private partnership is needed.

“Support of such students is critical and that’s why the PPP Fund was created. It is the vehicle that will enable public and private sector leaders to support the program and, most importantly, the students of the program.”

The Public Private Partnership Fund launch ended with the announcing of students who received scholarships from the public and private companies who already decided to partner with SDSU G PPPF: TBC Bank, LTD Adjara Water, SAGA and Dr. Ken Walsh’s family.

Nino Gugunishvili

17 November 2016 19:31