First on 12: Plan to merge ASU/GHSU passes unanimously

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email
State consolidation plan

The schools will be fully integrated by fall 2013 if lawmakers decide to go through with the state consolidation plan. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 9, 2012)

Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012

ATLANTA -- The merger of two Augusta universities was unanimously approved Tuesday afternoon.

Lawmakers decided to merge Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University, in addition to six other colleges across the state.

The other colleges that will be consolidated are: Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University; Middle Georgia College and Macon State College; Waycross College and South Georgia College, according to the University System of Georgia website.

Talks of the merger have been underway for months now.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Deke Copenhaver have told News 12's Chris Thomas that the merger would be good for the city of Augusta and the state as a whole.

"It will be a university with a medical school," said Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the Board of Regents.

It was standing room only as the board voted unanimously in favor of the chancellor's recommendation to merge GHSU and ASU.

"It will become an economic engine for that part of the state," Huckaby said. "I see no downside at all to what we are proposing."

But even the formal presentation acknowledged challenges likes branding and identity issues.

"My mission is to see that this is a successful merger," said Philip Wahl, incoming chairman of the ASU Foundation. "When I was the president of the alumni association, we also changed the name to Augusta State University."

Huckaby insists the move will benefit students.

"We think they are going to be able to show that they have a diploma from an even better institution," Huckaby said. "A better known institution."

The chancellor has a message for those who feel left out of the decision-making process.

"Quite frankly, in the real world, if we hand taken that tack, we would be standing here next year talking about consolidation again," Huckaby said.

Dr. Ricardo Azziz of GHSU and Bill Bloodworth of ASU were on hand for the announcement.

The integration will be complete by fall of 2013.

There is no word yet on the name of the new university.

At the meeting, a pamphlet was handed out outlining the opportunities and challenges presented by the GHSU/ASU merger:
"Opportunities:
-Reflects a bold move to create a new university that builds on the strength of two institutions with distinct missions.
-Creates a 21st century research institution that provides high-quality and comprehensive undergraduate programs and top-tier health education and research that meets regional and statewide needs.
-Continues to support the access mission, which is vital to regional needs.
-Allows for growth of research efforts to spur economic development and facilitate knowledge transfer.
-Offers a wide array of undergraduate programs in liberal arts and professional fields.
-Recognizes geographic proximity (less than 2 miles apart).
-Builds on strong community support.

Challenges:
-Significant differences exist in institutional mission, organization and governance.
-Complexity associated with current Health System structure would be further complicated by integration.
-Branding and identity issues exist."

The university system has created a website to help coordinate information and communication related to the consolidation here.


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