If the consolidation, which includes the mergers of six more institutions in three other areas, is approved as expected, it will trigger an ambitious timeline to transform the two divergent Augusta schools into one comprehensive university by fall 2013.
The plan has caught some by surprise, but Augusta political leaders are championing the proposal as the kind of idea the community needs to embrace to create opportunity for future generations.
“You have to be nimble and willing to change in this world or you will be run over or left behind,” Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.
He said he understands there will be many obstacles in the consolidation process, but he hopes everyone will look ahead at the possibilities that a large regional university in Augusta can create.
“I think we need to look at what the situation will be 20 years from now,” Copenhaver said.
The next step after the Board of Regents gives its approval will be forming an implementation committee, officials said.
The committee members will be selected by ASU President William Bloodworth and GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, and subject to the approval of university system Chancellor Hank Huckaby. It will be the committee’s job to make recommendations to complete the consolidation.
One reason for the proposed mergers that officials keep pointing to is the opportunity to save on administrative costs by combining some operations and reducing payrolls. However, Huckaby and others say it is too soon to specify exactly how much might be saved. That will come as the consolidation plans progress, officials say.
Copenhaver says he can see one more immediate advantage to creating a larger university in Augusta: It could silence all the talk about the University of Georgia taking away Augusta’s medical school.
“This takes that off of the table,” he said.