The University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby has officially announced his recommendations for the consolidation of eight of the system’s colleges: among them Gainesville State College with North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega); Waycross College with South Georgia College in Douglas; and Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University, both in Augusta. The merger that is of most concern locally involves Macon State College and Middle Georgia College in Cochran.
It will be an interesting process. Word of merging college campuses in the past has been the third rail of Georgia higher education. Twenty years ago, there was talk of merging Macon State with Georgia College and State University, then just Georgia College in Milledgeville, and there have been several passes at combining Savannah State University and Armstrong Atlantic University. In those conversations, Fort Valley State University’s future has also been a part of the conversations.
We doubt this plank of mergers will draw the ire of the various schools’ constituencies because they make sense in this financially strapped atmosphere, but the combinations ultimately -- at least for the local merger -- benefits students, particularly those of Middle Georgia College. The merger will increase the enrollment of Macon State by 60 percent and add campuses in Cochran, Dublin and Eastman.
Each school brings something to the table. MSC offers three times the baccalaureate degrees as Middle Georgia, but the Cochran school offers more associate degrees and certificate programs.
The chancellor pointed out in a news release that the excellent aviation program of MGC in Eastman pairs up well with the MSC partnership with Robins Air Force Base. MGC also has intercollegiate athletics, a program just getting under way at MSC.
The sad, but necessary aspect in the consolidations is is job loss. And while MSC almost new President Jeff Albritten will direct the combined institutions, some of the job that will disappear will undoubtedly come from the MSC campuses.
The Board of Regents still has to give its blessings to the plan, which it is expected to do next week. Our only hope is that if a name change is considered that it not be one of the concoctions the regents have come up with in the past. Anything longer than three or four words is more than a mouthful.
--Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board