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GHSU, ASU could merge, lawmaker says

State explores consolidation

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 Eight institutions of higher education would merge into four – including the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities – under a University System of Georgia proposal, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

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Officials for the University System of Georgia are considering merging Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities into one educational institution.  CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
Officials for the University System of Georgia are considering merging Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities into one educational institution.

Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, told The Associated Press he found out about the merger proposal from Henry “Hank” Huckaby, the chancellor of the University System, and Board of Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton during a meeting Wednesday at Waycross College, which is proposed to merge with South Georgia College in Douglas.

Huckaby is expected to make an official announcement Friday, and the Board of Regents is expected to discuss the proposal during its meeting next week, according to the AP. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been released.

The chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, confirmed to Morris News Service that ASU and GHSU are on the list of schools scheduled to consolidate and that Augusta business leaders had requested it. He added that he expects the merger legislation to pass the General Assembly with little problem.

“It’s going to show a cost savings, and it’s going to be good for all involved,” he said. “The reception that I’ve gotten has been mostly positive.”

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver told The Augusta Chronicle that the idea of an ASU-GHSU merger is not a new one, but in the past year, momentum has been building to make it happen. He said there have been discussions with state and local officials to develop feedback and build consensus for a plan that could result in a new regional university in Augusta.

Copenhaver said the economic downturn has been a big incentive to state officials to seek ways to save money and build for the future.

“My hope is that this could become a huge economic engine for the area as a whole,” he said. “Ultimately, I would like to see the development of a major university with a national reputation that would be a huge benefit to the community.”

Copenhaver said that any merger plan will face some difficulties but that he believes the political will is present to make it happen. He said the community needs to consider what will happen 20 years from now and how a merger has the potential to transform Augusta.

“You have to be nimble and willing to change in this world or you will be run over or left behind,” he said.

In September, Huckaby announced the system would explore consolidating some of its 35 institutions to save money and improve efficiency, but he did not specify which schools would be targeted.

State Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, told The Chronicle on Wednesday that he expects to hear recommendations from Huckaby within the next few weeks and to see progress on the merger of the Augusta schools in the upcoming legislative session.

If consolidation is OK’d, Davis said, it would “create a stronger institution that is able to provide undergraduate as well as a pipeline into graduate-level courses … this creates an opportunity in Augusta for students across this country to now see this as a destination.”

Members of both universities’ communities have talked about consequences of a merger for months, although opinions vary on what it would mean for students. Some say it would save money and help improve Augusta’s reputation; others worry the junction would put ASU in the shadows.

Retired ASU professor Michelle Benedict said the priorities of each school are too different for merging. GHSU is a medical school, and ASU focuses on liberal arts and sciences. Benedict said the arts and humanities could suffer by being blended with an institution with such a different focus.

“The small view is, it’s like close one eye and squint with the other and you might think you’ll save money,” she said. “But it’s either going to cost money or kill ASU altogether.”

Clay Boardman, the chairman of Georgia Health Sciences Foundation and a local businessman, said he sees the merger as part of a long-term plan to bring Augusta’s medical resources together and give the city a national reputation for top medical care. Instead of people looking to other cities and institutions such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Boardman hopes people look to Augusta.

“I think we could provide a model for the state,” he said. “I have yet to hear any resistance to the idea.”

Boardman said he was not privy to details of any Board of Regents proposal but could envision a plan having GHSU President Ricardo Azziz as the merged university’s head, with provosts running the two branches.

The ASU presidency will be vacant at the end of this academic year because William Bloodworth announced he would step down to return to teaching. The search for his successor has not yet begun, adding fuel to the speculation that Azziz could move into the leadership with a merger. Bloodworth and other ASU officials declined to comment Wednesday.

An administrative change such as a consolidation would need to be taken before the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the accrediting body for ASU, said commission spokeswoman Pamela Cravey. She said she had not seen a request to make such a change.

According to the commission’s policy on “substantive change,” a site committee visit is required within six months of initiating a merger or consolidation to ensure the university is still in compliance.

Merging two universities isn’t as simple as combining two banks or stores, said Edward Bouie, an associate professor of educational leadership at Mercer University. He was involved in the meshing of Clark College and Atlanta University in 1987.

In that case, one was primarily a graduate school and the other undergraduate, so they fit together well, he said. Putting together a school such as Augusta State and a research university such as GHSU would be trickier.

“The first thing is the mission issues,” Bouie said. “Those two have very divergent missions.”

The schools also have different types of students. ASU has students who need tutoring and guidance on study habits and time management, while GHSU students won’t, he said.

Despite the uncertainties, the idea for consolidation has garnered initial support in the community, said state Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta.

“Everyone that I have talked with said, ‘Gosh, this is a great idea; why haven’t we done it before?’ ” Sims said. “I don’t know that anybody is opposing it.”

ASU Alumni Association member and former ASU golfer Nick Evans said the merger would enhance the student experience and give the growing college the attention it often misses.

“Being together and putting the vision of both schools would strengthen the opportunity for both schools and for the student experience and for our community,” Evans said.

Besides the institutions in Augusta and Waycross, the University System proposes combining Middle Georgia College with Macon State College, and Gainesville College with North Georgia College and State University, according to the AP.

Staff Writer Tom Corwin contributed to this article.

Comments (43) Add comment
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kiwiinamerica
982
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kiwiinamerica 01/04/12 - 07:38 pm
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Noooooooo...........get outta
Unpublished

Noooooooo...........get outta here!!

Who saw this coming? < /sarcasm>

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/04/12 - 07:54 pm
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Heck, Little Lamb and I are

Heck, Little Lamb and I are already coming up with names. We named the Ruff House so I figure we'll figure out one for these merged schools.

Sweet son
11650
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Sweet son 01/04/12 - 07:56 pm
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Remember I told you that

Remember I told you that Ricky Ricardo Azzuz would be the head of the whole thing!! Next we will have to rename Walton Way to Ricky Way! LOL!

raul
5736
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raul 01/04/12 - 08:10 pm
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@Riverman. Clue me in on what

@Riverman. Clue me in on what the "Ruff House" is?

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/04/12 - 08:18 pm
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Raul, it's the John H.

Raul, it's the John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse. Ruff House.

raul
5736
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raul 01/04/12 - 08:21 pm
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@Riverman. Got it!. LOL.

@Riverman. Got it!. LOL.

draksig
167
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draksig 01/04/12 - 08:22 pm
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Here is my suggestion for a

Here is my suggestion for a new name of the merged schools.

Augusta College medical research center, bait, tackle and tire care center.

Okay, maybe just Augusta College & Medical Research Center (ACMRC).

Pu239
284
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Pu239 01/04/12 - 08:29 pm
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Stolen from
Unpublished

Stolen from draksig.....Augusta College medical research center, bait, tackle, and tire care center, soon to feature discount cigarette outlet and title pawn.

rmwardsr
525
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rmwardsr 01/04/12 - 08:35 pm
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0
I do not see the reasoning

I do not see the reasoning behind this at all whatsoever. This would be like combining a grocery store with Picadilly Cafeteria. They both serve food, but in different venues. I guess you will be abnle to have a double major now, If your History degree doesn't work out, that course on brain surgery sure will come in handy.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/04/12 - 08:36 pm
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The proposal includes a plan

The proposal includes a plan to keep ASU's name ASU (Azziz State University).

Now, that would be cool.

DanK
784
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DanK 01/04/12 - 09:28 pm
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A solo health sciences

A solo health sciences university like GHSU actually is a rarity. Of the 120+ medical schools in the country, only a handful are solo health sciences universities. All the others are part of a larger, general university. Examples are Emory, U of Florida, Duke, UNC, and UAB. Merging the two would bring GHSU into the mainstream nationally. There are many benefits of a unified university for all involved.

One problem is Azziz. He will not support it unless he gets to be in charge. He is not in any way prepared to be president of a general university and hopefully the University System Board of Trustees knows that. One can only imagine with horror the grizzly prospect of Azziz at the top of an entire general university. He's already destroying one university in this city. We don't need him destroying another.

The only possible positive outcome would be to force the merger and hire a good qualified administrator as president of the combined university, with Azziz reporting to him and the GHSU faculty a part of the larger university faculty. Azziz would be gone in a year and GHSU could begin the process of healing and rebuilding.

However, if this merger occurs, the Athens branch will probably be handed over to UGA. That merged university will be much larger and much more powerful than the Augusta university. GHSU will be further diminished in the long run.

For that reason, in my opinion, this merger is not something to hope for. It might seem appealing in the short term, but in the longer term, would be detrimental to both universities and the city of Augusta.

vibe1
64
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vibe1 01/04/12 - 09:54 pm
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Ok Rep. Sims...here's someone

Ok Rep. Sims...here's someone who's opposing this terrible idea. Maybe it would improve GHSU's financial situation, but it would be a disaster for ASU! As a graduate of Augusta College, I have been so proud of the growth and development of ASU over the past decade. GHSU will only drag them down. I know that this merger will probably happen, because the 'powers that be' always get their way. But it's a BAD idea. : (

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 01/04/12 - 10:00 pm
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So why did ASU say they were

So why did ASU say they were seeking a replacement for Bloodworth? Why the farce?

galaxygrl
1350
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galaxygrl 01/04/12 - 11:15 pm
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0
I thought he'd go after Paine

I thought he'd go after Paine first since it was right next door. All those new class rooms and easier to close the street then. Sure takes the community out of the college. But then it will force students over to Augusta Tech as a feeder junior college. Well, all worked out then. And Napoleon is in charge.

Techfan
6462
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Techfan 01/05/12 - 02:10 am
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I'd feel so much better if

I'd feel so much better if these type of ideas were released on April 1.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 01/05/12 - 02:30 am
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willow this may be why they

willow this may be why they have been delaying even bothering to look for a replacement for bloodworth. ignore what the regents say. you know, they consolidated a bunch of technical schools in this state a few years ago under the premise that it would save money.... the results have been.. well, lets just say it could be an educational process if the powers that be gave a durn tootin.

Craig Spinks
818
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Craig Spinks 01/05/12 - 02:44 am
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As an alumnus of Augusta

As an alumnus of Augusta College, I am distressed that my alma mater admits people who "need tutoring and guidance on study habits and time management."

What in the Hell have area public school systems been doing with these people during their K-12 experiences?

wtinney
0
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wtinney 01/05/12 - 03:18 am
0
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I personally think this is a

I personally think this is a very bad idea. As a former instructor of ASU and having kept somewhat in-the-know of GHSU significant problems since its inception and expansion, this kind of deal would only be a win for GHSU at ASU's cost. It was not that long ago that the nursing program was under consideration to be shelved because of the huge expense medical programs bring to any institution. Then what? Now they want to merge a very high maintenance, high liability institution like GHSU with ASU? Really? Who's rear end is being bailed out here? That is the real question no one is asking. There is no reason to meld programs into another institution that has already expressed concerns of taking a loss from such programs. Medical programs are just not self-sufficient when done correctly - therefore, it takes the support of a significantly large and diverse offering of arts and sciences programs to make up for the loss. What has ASU really got to gain by being involved with GHSU programs? I doubt nothing. If anything, because the Board of Regents and Business leaders of the area wish to hold on to the already invested money into GHSU, they'll grin and bear it for a later lump sum increase in institutional funding for ASU as a whole. This reminds me of Bank of America, which was solvent, being told by the Fed Reserve and the Treasury Department to take on Merrill Lynch (as it was going down the drain of sub-prime loans). Bank of America did not want the endless, deep pit of leveraged up responsibilities - no one knew how much toxic loans were out there. So, the Fed along with the U.S. Treasury supports BoA taking Merrill under their wings at the bargain basement price of 40 billion (later added with an additional 20 billion) to taxpayers. I believe ASU is taking the hit to expand its resources. But, as a cost saver? Not likely. Just as BoA's Merrill Lynch bid did nothing to save anyone anything... ASU will just be getting a lump sum at one time to assist in melding the institutions and then after that, take the strain of having to tow GHSU's programs (and costs) into the future.

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/05/12 - 04:42 am
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The reality. A university

The reality. A university that has a medical school has tremendous prestige. Few do. It attracts better students. In every case I know of the university takes the lead and the medical school is part of it. I know that seems like a drastic change, but it's the common sense way to merge. Go Jags.

tckr1983
365
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tckr1983 01/05/12 - 05:58 am
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You know what this means...

You know what this means... new signs!!!

THE Medical University of Georgia and stuff

skeptical
84
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skeptical 01/05/12 - 07:29 am
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There's absolutely no synergy

There's absolutely no synergy in the proposed merger given the extremely divergent missions of the two institutions. A merger between UGA and GHSU to create the Univ of Georgia Health Sciences Center in Augusta makes much more sense.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/05/12 - 07:41 am
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Consider the numbers.... ASU

Consider the numbers....

ASU is already nearing capacity. That's why they are expanding the Wrightsboro campus..

Where do an overwhelming majority of the students come from? Right here in the CSRA.

So, what happens when ASU "becomes a world class institution"? Our local students won't be going to the local university. They either won't be going at all or they will be going away to college, meaning much higher costs (i.e. the cost of a dorm room) when HOPE is continually being cut.

noway
201
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noway 01/05/12 - 09:11 am
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Of course "everyone agrees

Of course "everyone agrees this is a good idea." They didn't interview anyone that wouldn't think it was!! Did they ask ASU students, faculty or staff? Not that it would matter. The moral at GHSU is horrible, and ASU getting sucked into that will ruin the university. ASU is strong financially and it's just going to cost a fortune to merge the two. It's going to be ugly, even if it does benefit Augusta in the long run. I am so glad "community" members think it's a good thing, since they have no idea what ASU is really about.

augusta citizen
10021
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augusta citizen 01/05/12 - 09:15 am
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tckr1983, exactly what I was

tckr1983, exactly what I was thinking, great, I guess we will have to trash all those new GHSU signs and buy new...

I bet Dr. Azziz would think being in charge of it all would be "too cool".

tchnga
0
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tchnga 01/05/12 - 10:07 am
0
0
I don't like the idea at all.

I don't like the idea at all. It sounds like they are only thinking of the short term outcomes but not 10-15 years from now. Instead of merging why not have some sort of co-hort like Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech do for their engineering programs. Two seperate schools but yet they manage to work together for the sake of the students. Oh wait.....no one really thinks about students anymore in education regardless of the level.

kiwiinamerica
982
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kiwiinamerica 01/05/12 - 10:29 am
0
0
@Riverman Ahhhh......so this
Unpublished

@Riverman

Ahhhh......so this is really all about raising the profile and prestige of ASU? Azziz and the Regents have been spending their days and nights worrying about how to increase ASU's prestige? Of course........it's so obvious!! This has nothing to do with politics. Nothing to do with economics. It's altruism!

Perhaps this model could be applied more widely. Kennesaw State could merge with Emory, for instance. Boston Community College could merge with Harvard.

What a crock.

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/05/12 - 10:43 am
0
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It's about saving money.

It's about saving money. Plus, it is an opportunity to "give" ASU a med school. It has nothing to do with the example given of merging Boston College and Harvard. That would be two private colleges merging which is fine, but another story.

For a state university and state medical school in the same city to merge makes perfect sense. The other two med schools in the state are private, but both carry their university name...Emory and Mercer. Plus the med school at UGA is going to be UGA med school soon enough.

Let's save some money and help ASU at the same time.

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/05/12 - 10:41 am
0
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I tell you what else is

I tell you what else is sometimes done. Some colleges that have their med schools offer guaranteed admissions if you get an undergraduate degree at the college in the proper field. the med school is involved in designing the proper undergraduate programs preparing the students for med school admission. Now something like that would really shake up things.

Right on
213
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Right on 01/05/12 - 10:41 am
0
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There are major shortages in

There are major shortages in the state for doctors and nurses. There are not enough spaces to train doctors and nurses so the bar for acceptance into the programs is real high. So now we will have a merger which will reduce the number of available slots for doctors and nurses. Make no sense at all.

Riverman1
93748
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Riverman1 01/05/12 - 10:44 am
0
0
Right on, how does the merger

Right on, how does the merger reduce the number of slots for doctors and nurses?

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