Dalton State Praised for Being Ideal for Outdoor Enthusiasts, Affordability

DALTON –(Jan. 16) The outdoors is where Savimbi Thomas is meant to be. For the Dalton State criminal justice student, access to hiking trails, places to fish, raft, kayak, and other outdoor activities was an important piece of deciding where to go to college. And Dalton State has provided.

When visiting campus while deciding where to pursue his education, Thomas realized it was “one of the most beautiful campuses” he’d ever seen.

“Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of this?” he asked. “Here, you can find peace. You can relax.” But that wasn’t the only reason Thomas chose Dalton State. It is also one of the most affordable four-year public colleges in the nation.

“Affordability plays a huge part, but that doesn’t mean you miss out on a good education,” he said.

For those qualities, Dalton State was recently named one of the “30 Most Affordable Schools for Outdoor Enthusiasts” on the website affordableschools.net.

“Being named as one of the most affordable schools for outdoor enthusiasts is an honor,” said Dr. Jodi Johnson, vice president for enrollment and student services at the College. “Because we don’t have a lot of nonacademic spaces on campus, our students are fortunate to be able to take advantage of all the outdoor opportunities in the area. For the past four years, Dalton State has been named by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the most affordable four-year colleges in the country. Our tuition and fees are a little less than $4,000 per year in-state for full-time enrollment, and our average borrower owes approximately $5,300 in student loans.”

One way Dalton State keeps costs low is to spend most of its budget on instruction and academic support, she said. The article on affordableschools.net states out-of-state residents paid “a low $12,038” for tuition this year.

“Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Dalton State College no doubt impresses arriving nonGeorgian students with its green surroundings,” the article states. “What’s more, students won’t be traveling far to enjoy the great outdoors.”

With 2.5 miles of hiking trails on campus, and another half a mile in the works, the outdoors isn’t hard to access. Beyond that the campus is close to wilderness areas, national forests, pristine waterways, and state parks. The website notes Fort Mountain State Park in Murray County being ideal for mountain biking, walking, and swimming.

But that only highlights a few areas of interest available in the area, said Dr. John Lugthart, a professor of biology and outdoor enthusiast, who helps maintain and construct the campus trails. “Within a five minute drive from campus, a student can hike or mountain bike a section of the Pinhoti Trail within the Chattahoochee National Forest,” Lugthart said. “The Pinhoti is a 335 mile trail whose southern terminus is in Alabama and northern terminus is where it joins the Benton MacKaye Trail, another long-distance hiking trail. Hundreds of miles of other hiking trails can be found in the nearby Chattahoochee and Cherokee National forests, Fort Mountain, and Cloudland Canyon state parks, and many other areas just north of the Georgia border in Tennessee.”

There are several areas students can go rock climbing in the area. The Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, where enthusiasts can whitewater raft or kayak is about an hour’s drive from campus, Lugthart said. There are also several areas to hunt and/or fish, including trout fishing in the Conasauga River and Carter’s Lake, he said.
“I think being outdoors and active is good for the mind, body, and soul of our students,” Lugthart said.

Anne Loughren, assistant director of campus recreation at Dalton State, agrees. “This area is great for hiking and backpacking whether you are a novice or a more elite hiker or backpacker,” she said. “It is also a great area for camping, which again works for the novice or the more serious computer. Rock climbing and bouldering are also very popular around this area, especially around the Chattanooga, Tenn. area, which is about 30 minutes away.” Loughren said she has also recently gotten interested in stand-up paddle boarding, where participants can be on the water and relax, practice yoga, or even fish. Other popular activities in the area include caving, bat viewing, and bird watching.

“Dalton is great because it costs less to live here, but sits in a great spot where an outdoor enthusiast can explore some activities such as hiking right outside their back door,” Loughren said. “You can do it in a day and be back home for supper.”

Categories: Local News, Whitfield County

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