Minutes after the merger between Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges became official Tuesday, Jaterrica Keith stood in line at the Macon campus bookstore, clutching a Middle Georgia State College sweatshirt for her mother and wearing her own, purple MGSC shirt.
Theyre expanding, said Keith, a freshman English major, so youve got more students and more people to meet. Its a better experience.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the merger at its meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday. Statewide, eight colleges were merged into four. The consolidation, which immediately went into effect, has been in the works for the past year.
This, in my personal opinion, is going to be a plus for the Middle Georgia area, Interim President John Black said.
The new college has nearly 9,000 students and campuses in Macon, Warner Robins, Dublin, Cochran and the aviation campus in Eastman. The consolidation not only will expand programs and save money, but it positions the college to soon become a university, officials say.
When it initially backed the merger, the board passed a resolution stating it would support Middle Georgia State College becoming a university, meaning the college could offer graduate degrees. Ideally, that will happen in the next three years, Black said.
Students tell us all the time, We wish we could stay here and get our masters, Black said. Its going to be ... something Macons needed for a long time. We can fill a niche for Middle Georgia.
Jennifer Brannon, vice president of student affairs for Middle Georgia State, understands the need for graduate programs. After spending time at the Cochran campus, Brannon met many students who wanted to continue their education locally but could not.
People in the Cochran community, to get a masters degree, theyd have to go a long way, she said.
But for now, students and faculty will notice few changes. They will see some Middle Georgia State College shirts and merchandise in the bookstores. They will notice school signs, banners and road signs with the Middle Georgia State College logo. Crews were working Tuesday on the new college sign on Interstate 475.
In the short term, campus aesthetics will likely be the biggest change. There will be no program cuts or layoffs as a result of the consolidation, Black said.
Officials were able to keep employees from all five campuses by shuffling positions and through attrition. They placed several employees in positions that were already vacant, many due to retirement. Some vacant positions were simply eliminated, saving the college about $1.3 million, said Nancy Stroud, vice president of fiscal affairs.
A lot of those positions, where we had two, we only have one now, she said.
The college is contracting with the University of Georgias Carl Vinson Institute of Government to help tackle the issue of combining two sets of employees, who might have similar job titles but different salaries and workloads. The institute will conduct a study to determine which salaries need adjusting. Some salaries might increase or remain frozen for a period of time, but no salaries will decrease as part of the study, officials said in a news release.
The consolidation is going to be exciting, but its going to take some getting used to, said Demetria Dawson, a human resources assistant. I dont really know how, but its going to be different.
As director of student life for Middle Georgia State, Dee Lindsey says the consolidation will have a positive impact on her job. Additional campuses mean more activities for students, she said.
It will give (students) more opportunities to get engaged outside the classroom, Lindsey said.
Several students on Macons campus were engaged Tuesday, as they snagged free food and T-shirts during the consolidation celebration. The Student Life Center was decorated with balloons. Workers unveiled a large, Middle Georgia State College banner with the schools mascot -- the Knights -- and its colors of purple, black and silver.
Jennifer Baker-Harris, a junior, sported a Middle Georgia State College sweatshirt as she exited the building. The nursing major is mostly excited about the chance to take different classes, she said.
What it means to me is more opportunities, she said, more opportunities for success.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.