Merging Public Colleges in Georgia

HuckabyHank Huckaby was appointed Chancellor of University System of Georgia  in May 2011. In October of that same year he launched a consolidation initiative. The Board of Regents approved four consolidations in January 2012, just under four months from the imitative being launched. In November 2013, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to approve merging Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University in Phase II of planned consolidations. Consolidations are not new to Georgia. Between July 2009 and June 2010 thirteen technical colleges were consolidated into six.

“We must ensure that our system has the appropriate number of campuses around the state,” Huckaby said. “We in the university system should be the first to ask questions of ourselves to make sure we are serving the state in the best way.”

Phase I

Phase I consolidations reduced the number of colleges in the system from 35 to 31. The new schools are:

  • Georgia Regents University, a merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. Ricardo Azziz is president.
  • Middle Georgia State College, a merger of Macon State and Middle Georgia College. John Black is interim president.
  • South Georgia State College, a merger of Waycross and South Georgia College. Virginia Carson is president.
  • University of North Georgia, a merger of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University. Bonita Jacobs is president.

None of the campuses will close. The consolidations will result in approximately $6 million in operations through reduced administrative costs the savings to be reinvested in curriculum.

Controlling for change: A consolidation case study, May 20, 2013, Beth Brigdon, VP for Institutional Effectiveness, Georgia Regents University provides an overview.

Work Plan

An aggressive schedule was established and a daunting work plan (below) developed.

Academic

  • Coordinate with SACS
  • Coordinate with program-based accreditation (business, education, etc.)
  • Consolidate colleges – address departments in different colleges
  • Address program/curriculum differences
  • Streamline program offerings
  • Statutes and Bylaws (faculty senate, committees)
  • Faculty and Staff Handbooks
  • Update faculty contracts
  • Consolidate tenure and promotion processes and standards
  • Address consolidation of “centers”

Student

  • Combine Athletic Programs
  • Determine tuition strategy/approach
  • Merge information systems – address data governance and management
  • Coordinate with federal DOE for implementation of financial aid system
  • Revise Student Handbooks and Judiciary
  • Revise Bylaws (student government, student fee committee)

External

  • Legislative relationships/support
  • Name of institution
  • Address Foundation and Alumni Group Issues
  • Address any endowment restrictions
  • Branding (mascots, school colors)
  • Messaging

Operations

  • Merge financial systems including payroll
  • Update contractual and rental agreements
  • Analyze impact on bonds
  • Ensure effective implementation of controls (flowchart, KPI, segregation of duties)
  • Coordinate with State Auditor
  • Ensure adequate internal audit coverage
  • Consolidate risk management operations
  • Consolidate ethics hotline
  • Transition legal agreements
  • Transition IT security
  • Identify all reporting requirements; develop plan to ensure compliance

Phase II

In November 2013, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to approve Phase II the consolidation of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University. Phase II of planned consolidations was put on an aggressive schedule.

Major Planned Milestones

  • BOR considers recommendation to consolidate SPSU and KSU November 2013.
  • Prospectus developed and submitted to SACS October 2014
  • SACS considers approval of prospectus December 2014
  • BOR considers approval of newly created Kennesaw State University January 2015
  • First cohort of students attend the new university in fall 2015

2014 State of the University Address, Kennesaw State University, by President Daniel S. Papp, delivered May 7, 2014, 11 AM, and May 8, 2013, 11 AM, 2014. President Papp’s address weaves a campus historical and operational context of implementing a consolidation.

The Polybloggin website run by the Southern Polytechnic State University Undergraduate Admissions office provides a student services view.

Money Measures a new publication of the Kennesaw State University Associate Vice President for Operations shares financial contexts surrounding the consolidation.

And of course there is conflict in any such move. The Sentinel from KSU published its take under the banner Consolidation Conflict.

Lessons and Beyond

ChangeIsAProcessThree Lessons in Benefits Consolidation (from consolidation of institutions in Georgia) by Missy Kline,  June 17, 2014

To shed a little light on just how complicated such a consolidation is  take a few moments and peruse the agenda for the Georgia 2014 Conference for College and University Auditors held May 12-13, 2014.

Looking forward a new initiative has been established called Invent Beyond and the process has been opened up for participation using a MOOC style process. The online collaboration is open to anyone who attends, works in or works with higher education in the United States. The “Invent the Beyond” online collaboration will use crowd-sourcing to develop future scenarios and to explore and describe the factors critical to the success of student, faculty and postsecondary institutions in 2030.

Consolidations and mergers are not new to American Higher Education.

In 1995, Minnesota merged the states community and technical college systems. Prior to 1995, Minnesota had four systems of public higher education: the University of Minnesota, community colleges, technical colleges, and state universities. Each system had its own governance structure and mission. Governance of the technical college system was shared by a state board and local school districts; faculty were employed by school districts and belonged to 18 different local unions. Technical colleges focused on vocational and occupational education and only a limited number were accredited. Community colleges had a strong central office system that was directly involved with campus-level administrative decisions and provided services to the campuses. Community colleges focused on two-year academic and occupational programs. State universities were governed by a state board but were allowed considerable independence in administrating their academic programs.

In 1998, Kentucky merged its technical and community college systems. June 30, 2013 Rutgers University in New Jersey absorbed ‘most of’ the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey brining it to 65,000 students enrolled in 33 schools and colleges across New Jersey operated with a $4 billion dollar budget.

Consolidations are not new to global dispersed institutions. The largest University for Women, Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia consolidated several smaller women’s institutions to open with an enrollment of over 20,000 students and growing to 60,000 in just a couple years.

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