Even if you’re not a football fan or an alum of a Georgia college or university, there is no denying the sense of pride, local identity, educational resources and economic strength our state institutions provide. The pride I feel when I see the University of Georgia Bulldog or that solid black “G” surrounded by powerful red in a distinctly shaped oval is like no other. And the reminder of historical relevance and perseverance when I see Savannah State University orange and blue never will be taken for granted.
Growing up in coastal Georgia, I was constantly reminded of the option to attend UGA, GSU, Georgia Tech, SSU, Clark-Atlanta and other public colleges and universities. Many people aren’t aware that these options possibly may be taken away from us.
In September 2011, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby proposed an evaluation to determine the feasibility of consolidating Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities. The study will analyze possible mergers that may avoid program duplication and cut administrative costs.
This is said to be only an evaluation and nothing is set in stone, but this could be the beginning of something that affects us all. Jobs, quality of life, enrollment options, history and local pride all are in jeopardy if consolidation takes place.
Georgia technical colleges recently underwent similar changes. Campuses from 33 technical colleges were merged into to 25, which saved the Technical College System of Georgia $7.5 million annually. Fiscally, it was an efficient move for TCSG, but that doesn’t mean it was effective or will be suitable for the University System of Georgia.
While I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and efficiency, I’m also concerned about the effectiveness of consolidation and whether it would be in the best interests of students and the communities these schools serve. Is it possible that consolidation is a drastic approach and the same goals could be met in an effective and efficient manner using other alternatives?
Through research, I found that other educational systems used alternatives such as coordination of administrative services, program coordination across regions, voluntary coordination among institutions, shared services and shared resources to reduce costs and improve education quality while maintaining accessibility for students.
Today, I am not writing to criticize or blame Chancellor Huckaby and the Board of Regents. I simply want three things to happen. First, the public should be aware of this policy issue and I urge residents of Georgia to stay informed. Second, I want to encourage Chancellor Huckaby and the Board of Regents to exercise creative leadership and consider alternatives that are both effective and efficient before consolidating. Finally, I challenge the University System of Georgia to involve the public, universities and colleges in the planning, analysis, implementation, evaluation and recommendations for whatever decision is made.
For me, government is not about simply electing individuals to act on my behalf. It’s about working with whoever is elected or appointed to ensure I am informed and involved in decisions that may affect me. This is our future and we must take an active role in it.
If you want to contact Chancellor Huckaby or the Board of Regents for more information, go to www.usg.edu, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 656-2202.
Savannah State University student