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Ga. regents will approve college mergers

Some schools, communities already express objections

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 4:29 PM
Last updated Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 5:35 PM
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ATLANTA — University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said Thursday he is confident the state Board of Regents will vote next week to approve consolidating eight colleges into four.

The mergers, while not a popular idea with some, 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 last four years, Huckaby said. He said he is unsure how much money could be saved with the changes.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education,” Huckaby told The Associated Press. “This makes us, to some degree, a leaner, more efficient organization. We can focus our resources where they need to be focused.”

The proposed consolidations involve merging Waycross College with South Georgia College in Douglas; Augusta State College with the Georgia Health Sciences University; Middle Georgia College with Macon State College; and Gainesville State College with North Georgia College & State University. The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday.

Officials at Waycross and Macon State declined comment, referring calls to the university system office. Officials at Gainesville State and Augusta State did not immediately return calls for comment.

News of the possible mergers was first reported by the Waycross Journal-Herald on Tuesday after Huckaby and regents chairman Ben Tarbutton met with officials in the south Georgia city. Waycross officials — upset over the possible consolidation — held a press conference after the meeting and gave out the list.

Huckaby and members of the board were traveling Wednesday to Augusta, Gainesville and Dahlonega to talk with officials at each campus, he said.

“We understand these will not be easy, and we will be relying on strong community support and leadership,” Huckaby said. “We’re confident that this is going to be a win-win for all the areas affected, and we’re very excited about it.”

The campuses were chosen based on several months of study by the university system staff. The Board of Regents agreed on a set of principles that included avoiding duplication of programs, improving access to classes in rural areas and cutting back on administrative positions.

The mergers are expected to be complete by the fall of 2013, Huckaby said. He said the regents will choose which names are kept for the consolidated colleges with help from an advisory committee at each location.

Rep. Mark Hatfield, a Republican from Waycross who serves on the House Higher Education Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, said he was blindsided.

“I’m just flabbergasted by the whole thing,” he said Wednesday night. “That’s a monumental decision and you’re going to roll that out a week before you vote on it?”

Huckaby told Waycross officials there will be job losses from the mergers, Hatfield said. Huckaby declined to comment on any layoffs.

The Technical College System of Georgia has saved about $7 million a year by reducing its number of campuses from 33 to 25 by eliminating administrative costs.

In 2009, a Republican state senator initiated a push to merge historically black colleges in Savannah and Albany with nearby predominantly white schools. The plan never moved forward, amid opposition from the legislative black caucus.

There are no historically black institutions on the proposed list of mergers.

Consolidation would mark a change in direction for Georgia’s public college system, which has added many new institutions since it was founded in the 1930’s. Enrollment at the schools has also been rising while state support has fallen amid steep budget cuts, leading to large tuition increases even as HOPE scholarship benefits were cut back.

The consolidation study is among the first initiatives Huckaby introduced after he was named head of the university system in May. The former state lawmaker and longtime university administrator was charged with repairing the tense relationship between the Board of Regents and state lawmakers, partly due to a perception that the university system wasn’t doing enough to cut back spending as the state economy tanked.

“I don’t think all of our institutions are delivering value,” said state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the higher education budget. “You have to make decisions based on financial realities sometimes. I think that’s what the regents are doing. I’m very pleased with results so far.”

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mueckie
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mueckie 01/05/12 - 08:42 pm
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Three Million Dollars were

Three Million Dollars were spent to change the name from MCG to GHSU. Now they want to merge with ASU. How much more is the NEW Name going to cost? They don't have the same Mission, it's like comparing apples to oranges. Somebody wants it all!!

WalterBradfordCannon
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WalterBradfordCannon 01/05/12 - 09:44 pm
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Here's what this change will

Here's what this change will impact. First, ASU will be viewed immediately as a pre-med destination, and will become more competitive in admissions. It won't impact GHSU much - it is a billion dollar research university enterprise adding on a $60 million dollar satellite undergraduate institution. Augusta will benefit as the university will be more competitive for regent money. The people making signs will benefit as this will be a new, double, name change. Tuition will go up on both campuses. GHSU will be forgotten quickly as that name of the medical campus for 2 years. A lot of support people (HR, IT), especially at AC, will be canned. And, last and certainly not least, Azziz will benefit. He is faced with trying to expand GHSU in face of decreasing revenue from all sides, and if the current state of affairs went on much longer he would be viewed as a dismal failure. The state of affairs now has a new breath of life, and with it, Azziz' career. It is a very savvy move on his part.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 01/05/12 - 10:40 pm
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we are losers. they didn't
Unpublished

we are losers. they didn't even get asu's name right. backwater losers.

Insider Information
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Insider Information 01/06/12 - 12:37 am
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Walter, I beg to differ. The

Walter, I beg to differ.

The only impact will be that local students will be squeezed out and unable to attend the local university. Instead, they will be forced to go away to school if (1) there is room and (2) they can afford the costs of living away from home.

Ultimately, it "might" benefit MCG, but it will definitely harm the local community.

noway
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noway 01/06/12 - 09:56 am
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ASU is one of the leanest

ASU is one of the leanest universities in the system. It would be harder to save any more money. Taking over ASU is NOT saving the system and money, but will cost the state more money. Research universities are more expensive to run and maintain. This whole concept that "bigger is better" is a joke. And did any ASU students or alumni have any say in any of this?? no.

kiwiinamerica
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kiwiinamerica 01/06/12 - 10:27 am
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Yes, the merger will produce
Unpublished

Yes, the merger will produce savings and here's where the savings will come from: job losses.

Amidst all the hullabaloo associated with this merger, those two words have been seldom used. That's what this is really all about, though. We're broke and running out of options. It has nothing to do with raising the profile of ASU, although that may perhaps be an unintended consequence of this merger. It's all about the money. Always is.

"El Presidente", of course, is more than happy to facilitate this process.

ATGem0913
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ATGem0913 01/09/12 - 02:09 pm
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I'm a student at ASU and I

I'm a student at ASU and I 100% AGAINST this merger! Chancellor Huckaby has no idea how this merger will affect current students here at ASU and GHSU. Changing the name ALONE will cost over $2 million dollars; simply ridiculous! I'm praying to GOD that this merger does NOT get approved. There has been NO input from faculty, staff, students and parents WHATSOEVER.

Tuition & fees will increase ridiculously which isn't good because majority of students, including myself, have to rely on Financial Aid to pay to get a quality education.

I love ASU and I want it to stay the same. This merger will only make matters worse! Some students, including myself, want to be ONLY a graduate of ASU, not whatever this new university is supposed to be. I'm sure there are some students that attend GHSU that only want to graduate from GHSU.

I sent an e-mail to the BOR yesterday and I'm sure they're received it. Chancellor Huckaby has NO idea how much his idea is going to cost ASU, GHSU and the state.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/09/12 - 02:20 pm
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ATGem0913 wrote: I love ASU

ATGem0913 wrote:

I love ASU and I want it to stay the same.

You had better learn to embrace change before you get your degree and enter the real world.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/09/12 - 02:23 pm
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By the way, the best thing

By the way, the best thing they could do would be to name the new institution University of Georgia at Augusta. The abbreviated name would be written

UGA—Augusta

ATGem0913
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ATGem0913 01/09/12 - 03:43 pm
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Little Lamb wrote: You had

Little Lamb wrote:

You had better learn to embrace change before you get your degree and enter the real word.

Sir or Madam, I embrace change a LOT but this is one change I don't approve of. This changes everything: the curriculum, the tuition, don't forget the lay offs. People will lose their jobs because of this foolish decision and it costs over $2 million alone just to change the NAME. It's pointless!

I know the real world is like but YOU don't know anything about me.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/09/12 - 04:23 pm
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ATGem wrote: People will lose

ATGem wrote:

People will lose their jobs. . . .

That is one of the benefits of the merger.

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