Meeting by phone call Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted final approval for the consolidation of Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University, effective Jan. 1.
Georgia Southern, based in Statesboro, expands to Armstrong’s main campus in Savannah, now to be the Georgia Southern Armstrong Campus, and to Armstrong’s satellite campus in Hinesville, now to be the Georgia Southern Liberty Campus. Officials have proclaimed this three-campus institution “the new Georgia Southern University.” Television ads to that effect, naming all three home towns, have already begun airing.
The combined university will have more than 27,000 students, including about 20,600 enrolled at the old Georgia Southern in Statesboro.
It was one of two mergers the regents finalized during Tuesday’s call. The consolidation of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton and Bainbridge State College under the ABAC name also takes effect Jan. 1.
“The University System of Georgia is committed to serving the southeast and south Georgia regions of our state, and we view these consolidations as long-term investments,” Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a news release.
“The new Georgia Southern University and the new Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College are well positioned to increase college attainment levels in these areas of the state,” he said. “We will continue to work toward ensuring the success of our students, faculty and staff in partnership with our local communities.”
Through consolidation, the university system seeks to align “degree offerings with institutional and regional needs” and save money to be redirected into academic programs, the announcement stated.
Tuesday’s telephonic vote on the Georgia Southern-Armstrong consolidation was unanimous with no abstentions, said University System Vice Chancellor for Communications Charles Sutlive.
Among the 14 regents listed as participating were Regent Laura Taulbee Marsh of Statesboro and Regent Don Waters of Savannah. Waters and his wife previously donated $2 million toward a $22 million building, now under construction at the Armstrong Campus, which will be the home base of the Don and Cindy Waters College of Health Professions.
On a recommendation from Wrigley, the regents first voted Jan. 11 to consolidate Georgia Southern and Armstrong State under the Georgia Southern name. The presidents of the universities then selected a 41-member Consolidation Implementation Committee with members from both of their universities and one from Savannah State University.
With input from 93 working groups, the committee made recommendations for how the consolidation was to be accomplished. A prospectus was then submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which voted its approval Dec. 5, allowing the reorganized institution to be SACS accredited.
“Each of these consolidations was unique but shared common goals: improving outcomes for students and better serving the education and workforce needs of their respective regions,” Vice Chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness John Fuchko III said in the news release. “We are very grateful for the leadership of our presidents, faculty, staff, and students at each campus as they did the hard work to complete these consolidations.”
The regents were required to act within 30 days of the SACS recommendations, Sutlive said. So with the next regular regents’ meeting scheduled for Jan. 11, they agreed to a telephonic meeting.
The campus assignment of the new Georgia Southern’s eight subject-area colleges, announced in August, has been one of the more controversial aspects of the consolidation, at least in Statesboro. The Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, founded in Statesboro, and the College of Education, of which the Statesboro component descends from Georgia Teachers College, will have their deans’ offices in Savannah, as will the Don and Cindy Waters College of Health Professions.
But the other five subject-area colleges will be based on the Statesboro campus, and all eight will offer courses on both main campuses.
With the Georgia Southern-Armstrong and ABAC-Bainbridge consolidations, the number of institutions in the University System of Georgia is reduced from 28 to 26. Before the current consolidation initiative was launched in 2011, system numbered 35 colleges and universities.