ATLANTA -- The five campuses of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College will merge into one institution as early as fall 2013.
That was the unanimous vote of the state Board of Regents at a Tuesday meeting in Atlanta.
The merger of eight public colleges across Georgia into four, driven by cost concerns, means that the university system will have 31 institutions instead of 35.
“This is taking money out of administration and putting it in classrooms,” said Robert Hatcher, a Board of Regents member from Macon.
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The marriage of Macon State and Middle Georgia College will make life easier and offerings better for midstate students, said Shelley Nickel, associate vice chancellor for the regents. Macon is now the second most popular transfer destination for Middle Georgia students.
“This creates a seamless pipeline,” Nickel said. She also said it would extend access to baccalaureate degrees in skills needed in the midstate, such as nursing and health informatics.
With about 10,000 students, the combined college will reach a critical mass that makes it more attractive to potential faculty, regents said.
The mergers will also save money, Chancellor Hank Huckaby said, helping the university system absorb some of the $1 billion in state funding cuts in recent years. “But we didn’t attempt to quantify down to specific numbers,” he said.
“Common sense tells you that now we will need only four presidents, not eight. We’ll need only four chief business officers, not eight,” Huckaby said, “and on and on.
“We will get to a number. The number will be different at each consolidation. The magnitude of that number will be different.”
The course offerings are not written yet. “Defining what will be offered where is a challenge,” Nickel said.
Indeed, a group of some 50 students from Waycross came to the regents meeting to call for a delay in the vote that joined Waycross with South Georgia College in Douglas because they don’t know the details.
The Rev. Fer-Rell Malone Sr., a leader of the group, said they wanted to see a feasibility study and course offerings before they could support any merger. For example, he’s not sure that dual-enrolled high school students at Waycross will be able to get all their classes near home.
“What if English 101 is only taught at the main campus?” in Douglas, he asked.
But with the merger done, Malone’s hope is that members of the community will be involved in the transition.
Implementation committees could be in place by the end of the month. They will work on course offerings, administration, even the mascot and new college name.
Macon State College President Jeff Allbritten will lead the midstate’s yet-to-be-named transition team of faculty, staff, students, alumni, foundation members and community leaders.
Macon leaders, including Mayor Robert Reichert, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, and state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, have already applauded the merger.
Between them, the school’s five campuses are in Macon, Warner Robins, Cochran, Dublin and Eastman.
Future audits will tell if a unified administration is better for the two midstate colleges. Like many schools, the two were cited in their most recent state audits for accounting missteps related to scholarships and other funds.
One cause of that is that it’s difficult to attract a business officer to the smallest campuses, Hatcher said.
The other mergers are Gainesville State College with Dahlonega’s North Georgia College & State University, and Augusta State College with the city’s Georgia Health Sciences University.
No campuses are scheduled to close due to the merger.