The Georgia Board of Regents plans to merge Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, creating a new comprehensive research university with GHSU President Ricardo Azziz at the helm, University System of Georgia officials said Thursday.
University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby discussed the merger in a 45-minute closed-door meeting Thursday morning in an upstairs conference room in the ASU student center. Also in attendance were Azziz, Board of Regents Chairman Ben J. Tarbutton III, board Vice Chairman William “Dink” H. NeSmith Jr., ASU President Bill Bloodworth, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, state Sen. Hardie Davis, and state Reps. Quincy Murphy, Ernie Smith and Barbara Sims.
“The purpose of this morning’s meeting was to inform this group of a formal proposal involving the consolidation of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.” Huckaby said. “Not much more can be said until the board acts.”
Huckaby confirmed that the merger was one of four across the state that will be proposed at Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting in Atlanta. Other consolidations include merging Waycross and South Georgia colleges; Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University; and Middle Georgia and Macon State colleges.
If the proposal meets regents approval as expected, the consolidation process will begin immediately with a target date for full integration by fall 2013, according to a statement from GHSU. Next, an implementation committee will be formed, with representatives recommended by the respective presidents and approved by the chancellor. That committee will make recommendations for final approval by the Board of Regents, the statement says.
Huckaby said work on the mergers began more than two months ago and had gained broad support with local and state officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal.
Although the two schools have divergent missions and dissimilar student bodies and staffs, combining ASU and GHSU makes sense because it will allow the university system to create a “comprehensive university” in Augusta.
Tarbutton said the result will make both schools stronger educational institutions.
The mergers will reduce administrative costs at the institutions and help the University System recover some of the $1 billion in state funding cuts that have been made in the past four years, Huckaby told The Associated Press. He said he is unsure how much money could be saved with the changes.
“Our goal is a more educated Georgia, with a network of institutions that offer a range of needed degrees for 21st-century demands,” Huckaby said. “We are going to fulfill our mission within the limited resources available.”