Originally created 07/02/96

Existing schools fear newstatus will detract from them



STATESBORO, Ga. - Administrators at Georgia's newly renamed state universities say the new classification will be a boost to their reputations and recruitment efforts.

But some of their colleagues at the state's traditional universities fear the recent Board of Regents decision could detract from their image as education leaders.

On June 12, the regents renamed seven state colleges, including Augusta College and Savannah State, as universities. Another five, including Armstrong State College, are scheduled to become universities when final decisions are made on their new names.

Regents say the move was designed to bring state institutions in line with similar institutions in other states.

"This is not about status and this is not about any change in mission," said Chancellor Stephen Portch. "The board's policy is very clear on this."

But Regent John Henry Anderson, the only board member to oppose the change, argued that the move could lessen the reputations of the state's research universities - Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia - and its regional universities - Valdosta State and Georgia Southern.

Georgia Southern senior Erika Anderson agrees.

"It seemed like it was such a huge deal when we got it," said Ms. Anderson, a Marietta native. "Now, all of a sudden, everybody's a university."

Georgia Southern President Nicholas Henry is quick to draw distinctions between the sweeping name change and his institution's solo drive to earn university status in 1990.

The decade-long effort required Georgia Southern to meet strict requirements about the number and type of degrees offered, enrollment and services offered to the surrounding region.

"We got the designation of university the old-fashioned way," Dr. Henry said.

Armstrong State Vice President Frank Butleracknowledged Georgia Southern's accomplishments but said state colleges such as Armstrong can provide nearly identical learning opportunities for students.

"There are differences," Mr. Butler said. "Of course, the larger institutions have more faculty and may have more programs. But I don't think there will be any difference at all (in instruction) for the undergraduates."

Georgia Southern's student enrollment - which began to climb dramatically in the mid-1980s - currently stands at just more than 14,000. Armstrong has about 5,000 students enrolled and Savannah State about 3,200.

The state's two research universities, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, enroll about 29,000 students and nearly 13,000, respectively.

The state's other regional university - Valdosta State - has about 9,100 students.

Dr. Portch said the renaming should have little effect on universities such as Georgia Southern.

"This is in no way diminishing what's going on at Georgia Southern," he said. "Because someone else gets a certain name doesn't diminish your degree or your importance at all."

Dr. Portch pointed out that certain distinctions still remain between state universities such as Savannah State and Armstrong State and a regional university.

For example, he said, Georgia Southern and Valdosta State are allowed to offer certain doctorate degrees, a right the state universities won't have.

Last month, Georgia Southern awarded the state's first doctoral degrees south of the Athens-Atlanta area. A second doctoral program is set to begin this fall.

The bottom line in building a university's reputation is what it offers its students - not what words are in its name, he said.

"It's what you do that counts, not what you're called," he said.

Dr. Henry said he expects Georgia Southern, the state's third-largest university, to remain an education leader despite the name changes.

"Like any other institution, our quality will tell our story," Dr. Henry said. "The reason we have grown is because we've always offered students a very fine experience and a very fine education."