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University System of Georgia chancellor: College mergers going 'well'

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ATLANTA — The consolidation of eight public colleges into four is on track, the University System of Geor­gia chancellor told the state Board of Regents on Tuesday.

“They are going well,” Chan­­cellor Hank Huckaby said. “Overwhelmingly, the voices we hear from around the state are very supportive.”

The regents last month approved the consolidation plan proposed by Huck­aby and his staff. Its mergers include Augusta State University with Georgia Health Sciences University.

Community leaders in Augusta applauded the plan, while those in Waycross – where Waycross College would merge with South Georgia College – objected, even traveling to Atlanta to make their opposition visible at January’s meeting.

Some critics of the plan expressed concern about students having to drive far from their homes and jobs to attend class. Huckaby announced Tuesday that he has appointed a task force to study ways to increase the use of online courses and other forms of distance education, such as closed-circuit television.

“What we’re asking them to do is look at what we do and how we’re doing it,” he said.

Huckaby set a goal of Geor­gia becoming the world’s premier source of online courses.

To smooth the path for the mergers in other ways, he invited the eight college presidents to a luncheon Jan. 23 and told them that any plans for new courses, buildings or other changes should be done in terms of what would be needed after the merger.

He also appointed teams at each school to implement the meshing of personnel, policies and curriculum. He met with all 90 of them last month, too.

Associate Vice Chancellor Shelley Nickel said merging the various components would be complicated but could yield benefits for the system.

“While we know there’ll be administrative savings, there’ll also be other savings we haven’t even thought of yet. We need to capture these as we go along,” she said.


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