UPDATE: GHSU, Sen. Hardie send out news releases on merger being added to agenda

By: Staff Email
By: Staff Email

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 has just learned the possible consolidation of Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University is officially on the agenda for the Board of Regents.

Hank M. Huckaby, chancellor of the Board of Regents; Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver; Dr. Ricardo Azziz, president of GHSU and CEO of GHS Health Systems; and William Bloodworth, president of ASU, met Thursday morning.

The merger is on the agenda for their meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday.

News 12 first told you the merger was imminent following our report on Tuesday. Sources have told News 12 the merger is a done deal, but we'll soon have the official announcement.

Statement from GHSU:
AUGUSTA , Ga. -- A recommendation to merge Augusta State University (ASU) and Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) -- two public institutions in Augusta, Ga. -- will be on the agenda of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia when it convenes for its monthly meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, in Atlanta.

The recommendation incorporates the six principles for consolidation previously adopted by the Regents at their November meeting and is one of four consolidations being proposed. Other consolidations include merging Waycross College and South Georgia College; Gainesville State College and North Georgia College and State University; and Middle Georgia College and Macon State College.

If approved, the ASU-GHSU consolidation process will begin immediately with a target date for full integration by fall 2013. Next steps include the appointment of broad-based implementation work group, with representatives recommended by the respective presidents and approved by the Chancellor. That group will make recommendations for final approval by Board of Regents. Further discussions with the campus and broader community regarding the consolidation will occur next week.

The merger will create a new comprehensive research university in Georgia that builds on the strengths of both institutions to increase degree offerings, provide greater service level to students, enhance education attainment rates, expand distance learning options and create economies of scale.

“Our goal is a more educated Georgia, with a network of institutions that offer a range of needed degrees for 21st century demands,” said Hank Huckaby, Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. “We are going to fulfill our mission within the limited resources available.”

ASU President William A. Bloodworth, Jr., who previously announced his decision to retire from the presidency after serving almost 19 years, pledged his support and assistance for the consolidation. Plans are that GHSU President Ricardo Azziz will become president of the new university.

“The consolidation will present some challenges; however Chancellor Huckaby, Board Chair Benjamin Tarbutton and, especially, Dr. Azziz are fully committed to ASU’s focus on student learning, access and the value of the liberal arts and sciences,” said Bloodworth.

Increasing efficiencies is also a goal of the consolidation. It is anticipated that it will take at least 12 to 18 months to implement the consolidation and to properly calculate savings attained by the action. Realized savings will be reinvested into the instructional mission to serve students, said Huckaby.

“I am very excited about the recommendation from the Chancellor and USG staff to create a larger comprehensive university benefiting our students, faculty and staff through collaborative research, greater educational offerings and enhanced economic impact for the community and State of Georgia,” said GHSU President Ricardo Azziz.

The direct economic impact of both institutions combined is nearly $2.5 billion. A consolidated institution would help increase that impact to the state and local community.

For more information, visit the USG Consolidation website, http://www.usg.edu/consolidation/.

Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, released the following statement on the merger:
"Merging Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University is not just a cost-cutting measure, but a proactive strategy that will reduce operating costs. More importantly, it will allow our university system to grow in ways unimagined.

The recommended consolidation of these two campuses, along with several others across the state, marks the beginning of a new era for higher education in Georgia. Our state needs to retain college graduates in order to be a competitive place for business. In order to keep our best and brightest in state after graduation, we need to provide students with superior learning resources and dynamic faculty members. This proposed merger will serve as a catalyst for significant student growth and provide the foundation for a destination school for students from all over the world.

The new institution created as a result of this proposed merger has the potential to be a top-tier, comprehensive university that provides tremendous value to the state of Georgia."

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