THIS PAST January, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to consolidate two area universities, Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University.
The decision was swift and made without input from either university’s population, leading to a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.
Leaders from both communities have formed a committee to review and approve recommendations. The committee must present their work to the University System’s Board of Regents in December this year. If their work is approved, the implementation will be finalized in January 2018.
Ga. Southern’s current president, Jaimie L. Hebert, will serve as the president of the new institution.
How does this merger affect prospective and current students? Here’s what you need to know.
When does this change occur?
Fall 2018, if everything is approved.
Why did they do it?
“Creating the new Georgia Southern University will combine the best of both institutions,” explained USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley in January. “Consolidating Armstrong and Ga. Southern will create one institution with expanded regional presence, tailored degree programs for the coastal region and positioned to significantly enhance the University System’s economic impact for the area.”
What does consolidation really mean?
Essentially, Ga. Southern is now a multi-campus institution and Armstrong is the second campus. We’ll likely know more by December regarding the details of how specific things will change.
What’s the faculty split going to be like?
Senior leadership appointments thus far follow a fairly even split—Ga. Southern brings seven staff members and Armstrong contributes eight. Deans of colleges are a little less evenly split, with seven from Ga. Southern and just two from Armstrong.
How will my tuition be affected?
Armstrong’s tuition has been among the most affordable in the state. While the new institution’s price tag hasn’t been released yet, it’s fair to predict it will be similar to Ga. Southern’s current tuition.
Ga. Southern’s tuition is higher than Armstrong’s, but not by much. For fall 2017, Ga. Southern undergrads will pay $3,711 per semester, and Armstrong undergrads will pay $3,215. These figures are just tuition estimates and don’t reflect housing, books, meal plans, and other costs.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Board of Regents-imposed institutional fee is higher at Ga. Southern as well, pricing in at $290 for students enrolled in five-plus hours. The same fee at Armstrong costs $250 for four-plus hours.
While Ga. Southern’s tuition isn’t dramatically higher than Armstrong’s, it is still more than Armstrong students currently pay. This could be a determining factor of whether a student could be priced out to a different institution.
Will I have to move or commute?
Maybe. The new institution will consist of nine colleges: Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing, College of Arts and Humanities, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, College of Business, College of Education, Waters College of Health Professions, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, College of Science and Mathematics and Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies.
The divvying of programs per campus isn’t quite completed, but Hebert announced at a forum back in April that the health colleges will be in Savannah and the engineering college will be in Statesboro.
Some majors will be offered at both campuses, but not all. Ga. Southern is 52 miles from Armstrong, an hour-long drive that is not an affordable or worthwhile commute for every student.
Current Armstrong students now face a tough choice with a lot of variables left out of the process. If their major gets dropped from the Armstrong campus, they have to decide whether to move to Statesboro, make an hour-long commute, or transfer to a new school.
The silver lining here is that, as the Inkwell’s Ethan Smith points out, each student is ensured a degree in their current track until spring 2020. However, if the new institution’s start date is fall 2018, that gives students four semesters, six including summers, to complete their program.
The University System owns land adjacent to the Armstrong campus available for expansion should the university expand.
What are the requirements to get into Ga. Southern in fall 2018?
This part has been finalized and posted on both Armstrong and Ga. Southern’s websites. Prospective students must have a 2.5 high school GPA, a 1030 on the SAT, and a 20 composite on the ACT.
Those scores dropped from Ga. Southern entry requirements for fall 2017. The minimum SAT score needed was 1090, and the composite ACT was a 21. Armstrong’s fall 2017 requirements were a 2.5 high school GPA, a 980 on the SAT, and a 19 on the ACT. Essentially, the new admission requirements meet in the middle.
What about the sports team?
One of the first recommendations that the consolidation committee approved was the dissolution of Armstrong’s sports program. Armstrong offered baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, tennis, volleyball, and softball teams. Their tennis team was especially prolific, with the men’s team winning 13 Peach Belt Conference titles and the women’s team winning 21 PBC titles. The Pirates competed in Division II and Ga. Southern competes in Division I.
In an open letter, Armstrong’s Athletic Director Lisa Sweany noted that during her six-year tenure, the Pirates collectively amassed 5 NCAA DII National Championships, 35 Peach Belt Conference titles (23 of them in the regular season and 15 tournament titles), 43 NCAA DII championship appearances, 86 All-Americans, 13 Academic All-Americans, and 214 All-Peach Belt Conference honorees.
Those numbers are powerful and indicate that the Pirates’ dissolution is a serious loss in collegiate sports.
For what it’s worth, back in 2014, there was a heavy push from students to consider the addition of a football program to Armstrong’s sports roster.
A now-defunct Facebook page, “Savannah for Armstrong Football,” aimed to create discussion and write a proposal to the Student Government Association. While the proposal obviously didn’t spur any action, it showed Armstrong leadership the student’s desire for a football team.
What happens to Armstrong’s legacy?
Armstrong has a long history in Savannah, starting with the founding of Armstrong Junior College in 1935 in its original building at 447 Bull Street, followed by its move to the Southside in the late ‘60s. The campus’ buildings are historically named and will retain their titles.
How can I find more information or send feedback?
A consolidation website is found at consolidation.georgiasouthern.edu, which presents all the current information concerning this merger. There are two email addresses available for comments: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.