"I was working for the governor, Joe Frank Harris, in 1983 when we created the state agency now known as the Technical College System of Georgia," Newcomb said.
Newcomb said results from a study group at the time showed the state needed a third education system as a means to fit Harris' vision of having technical colleges across the state work together to draw industry.
"You can imagine, to be a part of that technical college system, to have seen it standardize the programs that they offer, to see it improve the facilities, to see it recognized by communities and the state and even nationwide as a place where folks can go get the technical skills they need to be successful at a job -- that gives me a great sense of fulfillment," Newcomb said. "Being chosen as the president of the largest technical college in a system that I was a small part of creating 28 years ago, it's a nice sense."
He said, in his career, he has seen the gradual evolution of technical colleges as a great benefit for both individuals and the business community.
"There's no question that the greatest positive change has been both the reality and the perception of technical colleges," Newcomb said. "We've gone from being viewed as your daddy's trade school 30 years ago, the [vocation/technical] image of a place you went to if you wanted a job where you'd get your hands dirty, to a technical college that provides technical skills to students that are high tech that require folks to not only be able to work with their hands, but to have the mental and academic abilities to perform at a high skill level."
Amidst a struggling economy and loss in funding for scholastic endeavors, both locally and nationally, Newcomb said financing college remains a struggle for many, but it takes multiple perspectives to find a sound balance in how to educate the public. He also provided a personal example of financing one's education.
"One of the great and enduring public policy questions that folks at the state level wrestle with is, 'what's the correct balance between the government, i.e., the community of your peers and neighbors, providing resources to provide the education for somebody, versus the other end of the spectrum, it being the sole responsibility of the individual to find the money, and the great policy dilemma is where on the spectrum should public policy fall,'"Newcomb said. "Nobody believes it should totally be the responsibility of the community, nobody really believes it should totally be the responsibility of the individual.
"The balance is what we find and where that balance falls during any given decade or administration changes from time to time. I know that the state has made some changes that have shifted that balance somewhat, we have carried out obviously whatever policies the state decides. For example, on the HOPE changes, we know that the lottery was running short, we knew they had to make some HOPE changes, we know that it impacts our students and we continue to try to work with our students the best we can to help them still put the financial pieces together to come to us."
The college currently does not accept loans, but does provide access to financial aid options.
"A long time ago I had the benefit of a Pell Grant, I had the benefit of a small loan and I had the benefit of work study," Newcomb said. "I also had the benefit of working at Piggly Wiggly grocery store 30-something hours a week while I was at Albany Junior College stocking and bagging and running cash registers to help pay my own way through, and I think that's the balance that I think probably is right," Newcomb said. "... It is still possible for a student to attend college and to persist and graduate. There's just a balance with what the state does, the community does and what the student does."
He said his goals for the next decade include having an overall student population increase by about 7,000 students and for the increase to be viewed as a success.
"If the [media reported] we had expanded programs that were successful on one campus and put them on other campuses ... and that you can go to any one of the campuses and have access to the majority of the programs that the college offers," Newcomb said. "I'd love it if [the media reported] Chattahoochee Tech was a part in closing the skills gap that we hear so much about, we hear people talking about it locally, state and nationally, that business and industry keep saying, 'we could expand tomorrow if only I could find [for example] more machinists, more nurses, more [automotive and diesel technicians],' ... and that means we have a responsibility not just to offer the programs, we have a responsibility to help potential students realize [the results of] going into those programs."
Newcomb's education credentials include three degrees from the university of Georgia, the most recent being a doctorate from the Institute of Higher Education in August. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in political science in the 1970s, later teaching government courses as a political science doctoral student.