Ga. regents approve college mergers at meeting -, GA News Weather & Sports

Ga. regents approve college mergers at meeting

AP Education Writer

ATLANTA (AP) - The unprecedented merger of eight public colleges was approved Tuesday by Georgia's Board of Regents in a move to reduce costs, shrinking the university system from 35 to 31 institutions.

The plan will consolidate Waycross College with South Georgia College in Douglas; Augusta State College with the Georgia Health Sciences University; Middle Georgia College with Macon State College; and Gainesville State College with North Georgia College & State University. University system Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced the move last week after visiting each campus to talk with administrators face-to-face.

"I think this is a historic moment and the right move in the context of the environment we're in now," he said after Tuesday's vote.

The mergers will reduce administrative costs at the institutions and help the university system absorb some of the $1 billion in state funding cuts that have been made in the last four years, officials said.

The university system began a study this fall to determine whether it should combine some of its institutions to help cut administrative costs. Officials said they hope to have most changes in place by this fall, but it could be much longer than that before the mergers are complete.

The university system will not shut down any of the campuses but will instead merge administrative functions at the institutions. It also will give students in smaller communities a chance to study at larger institutions they might not have had access to in the past, through online classes and shared faculty members.

The merger plan includes forming committees at each institution that include students, faculty, staff and community members to help make the transition smooth. The committees will be established in coming weeks.

"It's going to be messy," associate vice chancellor Shelley Nickel told the board. "There are issues we are not even aware of yet. It will take us time to sort through the issues."

Dozens of supporters from Waycross College attended the packed meeting, wearing shirts from the tiny, two-year institution. The south Georgia community has been the most vocal about the mergers, saying the university system should do more research before approving the change.


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