Georgia Colleges Heading for a Merger

Garret McDowell

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The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents is about to act on a proposal that will combine eight different universities into four. All campuses that are affected by the proposal are not expected to close, according to the President of Macon State College Jeff Allbritten.
In an interview with The Macon Telegraph, Allbritten explained much of the rationale behind the cuts that left most in Georgia shaking their heads.
Allbritten is personally affected, as Macon State College and Middle Georgia College are expected to combine into a much larger university over the next 18 months. The new institution will have five campuses in Macon, Warner Robins, Cochran, Dublin and Eastman. In addition, it will have an enrollment of just under 10,000 students.
In the past four years, the University System of Georgia made over $1 billion in cuts, and many of these cuts will be alleviated by these mergers. When speaking to the Associated Press, University System of Georgia Chancellor Henry Huckaby said that “Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education, making us a leaner, more efficient organization.”
Besides the combination of Middle Georgia College and Macon State College, Waycross College will merge with South Georgia College in Douglas, Augusta State College with the Georgia Health Sciences University, and Gainesville College will combine with Dahlonega’s North Georgia College and State University.
This is the first shrinkage for the University System of Georgia, and will take the number of colleges in Georgia from 35 to 31.
Throughout the merger, each school involved will form committees of all affected parties, ranging from students to faculty to the community, in order to help identify the sticking points between merging schools. Via this plan, more rural areas are alleged to have both more frequent and better quality access to online courses and shared professors.
Mercer Alumni and current Governor of Georgia Nathan Deal supports this plan, echoing this in the Chattanooga Times Free Press “I think the result will be that we will improve the quality of education and we’ll be able to provide better services to people in our institutions.”
Many outspoken against this plan say that there was not enough time given to really consider the pros and cons of this merger, referencing the announcement of these schools and when the vote took place. However, a study to analyze solely whether a merger could either occur and benefit students began in the fall. As a result, the University System of Georgia plans to have the mergers complete by Fall 2013. Many state representatives and figures plan to petition and lobby against the change.
The University System of Georgia lists the City of Macon as the second most popular place to transfer to for undergraduates in the state. This process would streamline the transfer system in the Middle Georgia area due to the five campuses coming under one system. Since Middle Georgia has a focus on aviation, Macon State’s partnership with nearby military installations will further this, boosting a struggling economy.
In essence, the Macon State and Middle Georgia consolidation will help Allbritten further his goal of turning Macon State College into a university. Furthermore, it will help Mercer students have a wider variety of courses possible to take at Macon State.

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