Technical college merger progressing

jmink@macon.comJanuary 19, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- As one local college celebrates its new merger, two others are preparing to join forces.

The upcoming consolidation of Middle Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins and Central Georgia Technical College in Macon is in full swing. Leaders are preparing for the July 1 merger, which will form a new technical college with an estimated 8,000 college students, 5,000 adult education students and a presence in 11 counties.

If approved, it will be the second local merger this year. Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges consolidated Jan. 8. Like the new Middle Georgia State College, the technical college merger is an effort to save money, streamline services and increase student options.

“Students should be able to enjoy greater access to a wider variety of programs, regardless of where they live,” said Jeff Scruggs, the acting president of Middle Georgia Technical College.

Several important steps have been taken in the merger process. The new college’s name has been chosen, its leadership has been defined and some data systems already act as one.

The new institution will also be called Central Georgia Technical College. Board members chose to keep the name of one of the merging colleges because they felt “Central” better defines the region, Scruggs said. Additionally, board members shied from the word “Middle” because the latest regional merger formed Middle Georgia State College, and they wanted to avoid confusion.

When the new college is formed, current Central Georgia Technical College President Ivan Allen will be at the helm, and Scruggs will be executive vice president.

“Dr. Allen possesses the right skills to carry this big job forward,” Ron Jackson, commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, said in a statement. “He’s widely known and well-respected throughout all of the communities that will be served by the merged college, and he’s deeply committed to the success of every one of his students.”

Other positions were easily filled due to retirements and attrition. For example, the vice president of student affairs at the current Central Georgia Technical College retired, so the vice president of student affairs at Middle Georgia Technical College will take over the position for all campuses, Scruggs said.

Several vacant positions will be eliminated in that manner, which will save an estimated $500,000 a year and has resulted in no layoffs. Officials are concentrating on being honest and working closely with faculty, staff and students, Scruggs said.

“We’re trying to help them navigate through this process ... and, at the end of the day, find value for the taxpayers,” he said. “There’s frustration. There’s fear. Even confusion sometimes emerges, because we are changing.”

After all, merging two colleges is anything but easy, especially two schools with such a wide reach, officials say.

The merged college will cover 11 counties -- its service area will be 40 percent larger than the state of Delaware -- with campuses in Macon, Warner Robins, Milledgeville and Crawford County, and work force development systems, learning centers and adult literacy centers in several other communities.

The college will not only offer associate degrees and college certificates, but also GED services, adult literary programs and training for businesses and industries.

And there is still work to be done. The next step is to get certain programs accredited for the new, consolidated college. That involves extensive paperwork that will be sent April 15 to the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Those documents will be considered at a SACS meeting in June. Officials expect tentative merger approval then, and SACS could make that approval permanent after a visit to the consolidated college this fall, Scruggs said.

As they prepare accreditation reports, officials also are streamlining procedures, updating computer systems and merging data.

Gardner Long, vice president of technology at Central Georgia, spends his days updating a “spiderweb” of servers and databases. About 10,000 devices must be transferred to the new domain, “and we have to program each one of those,” he said, adding that task is mostly complete.

Those devices include everything from laptops to phones to heating and air conditioning units. Each one has an Internet protocol address attached to it, and each address had to be changed, he said.

Workers also have been updating the e-mail system and student databases. They hope to have student information systems merged by Feb. 1, and all students will be registered under the same system starting this fall semester, Long said.

The process is on schedule, with the Macon and Warner Robins campuses already operating as a single unit in terms of technology systems. Now, workers are concentrating on the satellite campuses as they tie buildings in all 11 counties together.

“It’s certainly a big job,” Long said. “It takes a lot of planning.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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