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Addressing concerns of GSU-GPC consolidation

The students who transfer to Georgia State from GPC proceed and succeed at rates basically the same as those who start here as freshman. The quality is very high, this has worked very well, and it’s been that way for almost fifty years. This is a very successful model we’re building on and the question is by consolidating as one institution, how do we take the university still to a higher level?”- President Mark Becker

Despite concerns about structure, finances and athletic scholarships the consolidation between Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) and Georgia State is moving forward.

The Board of Regents (BOR) approved a consolidation that will combine Georgia State and GPC in 2016.

Georgia State President Mark Becker, GPC Interim President Rob Watts and the University System of Georgia (USG) Vice Chancellor Shelly Nickel held at Q&A town hall meeting at GPC and Georgia State on Jan. 13 to answer questions about the consolidation.

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Becker will serve as president and the consolidated institution will keep the name Georgia State University, according to Watts.

A two-tiered system with the associate-degree students paying lower fees and tuition amounts is planned, according to the GPC release.

“The USG Board of Regents and chancellor have continually stated their commitment to keeping college affordable,” the release states.

To handle decisions regarding the consolidation, an implementation committee of students and faculty will be formed, according to a Georgia State release.

“The first step is to form an implementation committee, including students, faculty and staff from Georgia State and Georgia Perimeter, who will spend the next year examining and working through all aspects of the consolidation,” the release states.“The work of the committee is to be submitted to the Board of Regents for its consideration in January 2016, with implementation finalized by the beginning of the fall semester in 2016.”

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Becker said in the release by joining the universities Georgia State will not only gain a larger national profile but it will provide greater opportunities to students from both institutions.

“With campuses throughout the metro-Atlanta region, the consolidated Georgia State University will have the flexibility to more readily deliver quality academic programs throughout the metro region,” he said.

Becker also said in the release that Georgia State will continue to admit students into its degree programs. GPC will continue to admit students into its associate and certificate programs by standards consistent with it’s access mission.

GPC will retain it’s access mission of being the college for people who wouldn’t normally have the means to pursue a degree, according to Watts.

Watts also said the associate programs should undergo minimal change.

There likely will be two tiers of admission requirements, for associate-degree-seeking students at the access (GPC) campuses and for baccalaureate-degree-seeking students at the downtown campus, according to a GPC press release.

The universities’ finances

In 2012 it was publicized that GPC leadership’s over-spending and mismanagement of funds led the college to make $25 million budget cuts.

Watts said during Georgia State’s town hall meeting that the school’s financial crisis had come to an end.

“We weren’t two and a half years ago but we’re in very good financial shape right now. Our budget is balanced, we live within our means,” he said. “We have reserves, our last audit was perfect and we have no issues with SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).”

He also said GPC’s previous financial state will not affect Georgia State after the consolidation.

“I don’t want anybody to think that Georgia Perimeter College is not well run financially,” he said.

Some savings of the consolidated universities are already apparent, according to Watts.

“The new institution won’t need two presidents and so there are some automatic savings there,” he said jokingly.

Athletics programs

Based on the uncertainty of scholarships and campuses GPC suspended all athletics recruitment on Jan. 12 and will likely not have any athletic teams next year, according to Interim President Rob Watts.

“My office and the athletic directors office have been inundated with calls from parents saying your coach is out recruiting my son or daughter to play, can you guarantee for me there will be a team two years from now to play? And the answer is no, we can’t guarantee that, Watts said.

Watts said it’s important to be upfront with student athletes and their families so they are able to find other options to participate in college athletics.

“We can’t look a parent in the eye, we can’t be honest with a parent or student and say you will absolutely get to play for the next two years,” Watts said.

Watts also said the current student athletes most likely to be affected are the 86 GPC freshman with athletic scholarships.

“If you want to stay at GPC we will honor your scholarship as long as you are eligible,” he said. “However, if you want to move on and continue to play we will give you a release. You won’t have to sit out a year. You can move immediately on and play someplace else.”

The athletics department at GPC predicts about 70 of these athletes will be recruited to play someplace else, according to Watts.

Alfred Barney, GPC athletic director and men’s basketball coach made the decision to halt recruiting for GPC’s eight athletic divisions at GPC’s town hall meeting on Jan. 13, according to GPC’s release. The announcement came shortly after USG’s Jan. 6 decision to consolidate Georgia State with GPC.

GPC will continue its regular spring season schedule for all spring sports, but that likely will be the last time GPC Jaguar teams play, according to Barney.

“Athletes on scholarship will be given the opportunity to keep their scholarships through their eligibility if they choose to stay at GPC. If they choose to leave, they will get a release letter allowing them to play at another institution,” he said.

Becker said there will be no change to the athletic recruitment programs at Georgia State and that the merger only increases the need for the university to acquire Turner Field for athletic purposes.

“This leaves no changes for the Turner Field plan. We are continuing to pursue Turner Field. this means only more obvious the needs for Turner Field for our own facilities here downtown that will serve this metro region,” he said. “Those plans are only reinforced by this consolidation.”

Student responses

Junior Xavier Dicks Jr., a junior business major, said he’s on the fence about the consolidation and believes it’s for business gains.

“Honestly, I’m kind of in the middle when it comes to the merger. I think the merger should generate some good business. Business is good for the university, but we’ll see if it’s a good choice down the road,” Dicks said. “The downside to me is that it will affect our public perception.”

Student Patrick Walter said he doesn’t see any benefits in the consolidation.

“I think it’s the dumbest decision the university made, along with Brightspace and the street car. I like Georgia State the way it is as a single, established institute in Georgia. This whole merger in my opinion is about money because tuition is down at an all time high,” he said.

Luvert Allen, a junior psychology major, said he doesn’t care because he doesn’t see any consequences with the decision.

“It seems like a move to expand Georgia State’s influence and by bringing in the extra money that all of the perimeter schools gathered, they will be able to provide upgrades to the school and such,” he said.

Long-term goals

Becker said other four-year universities connected with two-year schools serve as a model to follow when building the new Georgia State. Emory, Penn State and the University of South Carolina are all associated with two-year associates or certificate programs

He also said Georgia State and GPC have a long and successful history working together. Approximately 1,300 students every year transfer from GPC to Georgia State.

“The students who transfer to Georgia State from GPC proceed and succeed at rates basically the same as those who start here as freshman. The quality is very high, this has worked very well, and it’s been that way for almost fifty years,” Becker said. “This is a very successful model we’re building on and the question is by consolidating as one institution, how do we take the university still to a higher level.”

The goal is not to enroll students but see them through to graduation, according to Becker.

“Goal one is that we want to establish a national model demonstrating that students from all backgrounds can be successful at high rates,” he said.

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