The consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities need to attract more students from outside, improve historically low graduation rates at ASU and forge new partnerships such as potential relationships with universities in China, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said Friday.
Speaking to the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, Azziz gave a wide-ranging talk on the economic benefits of the current and future universities and mentioned the consolidated university name, Georgia Regents University, only once. During a brief question-and-answer period, nobody in the crowd of about 200 asked him about it. Azziz said he was not surprised.
“We’re moving on,” he said.
A threatened lawsuit over trademark infringement from Regent University of Virginia won’t impede progress, Azziz said. “That’s a (University System of Georgia) issue.”
Not only the consolidated university but also the Augusta community must seize the opportunities present now, Azziz said.
“We are at a crossroads, ladies and gentlemen, a once-in-a-century crossroads,” he said.
Part of that is building up the program offerings at what will be Georgia Regents, where there are only 44 nonhealth science degree programs compared with 487 at the University of Georgia, Azziz said.
“We must make our community attractive to students from outside the area,” he said.
The consolidated university also must turn around graduation rates at ASU that hovered at the bottom of the university system at 20 percent to 30 percent.
“We are among the worst institutions for success in Georgia and have been for a decade,” Azziz said.
Officials are still studying the problem but are going to take it on by “ensuring the students who enter our university succeed,” he said.
He is planning a trip soon to China to meet with five universities to talk about collaborations, putting a more formal take on what had been piecemeal arrangements with institutions there.
He also called on Augusta’s hospitals to continue working together to make Augusta a “health care destination” and bring in more patients from outside the metro area.
“We must grow the pie bigger, not fight over the scraps of the pie,” Azziz said.