On Monday, Jan. 5 at 9:28 p.m., President Mark Becker sent out a campus-wide e-mail informing students that the concept of a merger with Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) would be placed in front of the Board of Regents at a meeting on Jan. 6, thus giving students no time whatsoever to voice their concerns and opinions regarding the idea.
On the morning of Jan. 6, the decision was approved and at 4:07 p.m., an email was sent out informing students that “The University System of Georgia Board of Regents today voted to consolidate Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College.”
What do students say?
What can you do?
- GSU SGA president Lanier Henson told The Signal, “Any students with concerns should voice their opinions officially to the SGA so accurate information can be passed along to the USG Board of Regents.”
Henson said by receiving students’ opinion on paper, they could show feedback to the board.
- Furthermore, on Jan. 13 President Mark Becker will hold a town hall meeting regarding the Georgia State/Georgia Perimeter College consolidation at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Speakers Auditorium in the Student Center.
- Rob Watts, the interim president of Georgia Perimeter College, and Shelley Nickel, the vice chancellor for planning and implementation at the University System, will also be in attendance to answer questions that Georgia State students and staff may have.
This came on the heels of winter break, just as everyone is out for their last huzzah before classes begin once more. Simon Phillips, a sophomore computer science major, said he was surprised when he saw the news on Facebook.
“I check my GSU email regularly during the semester, but over the break people don’t usually keep up with their student email accounts,” Phillips said. “The merger was totally out of the blue. I have no idea how this is going to affect my degree and my competition in the job marketplace.”
A GPC student who asked to remain unnamed said, “I’m sure that the merger will bring about changes at GPC, but there are just so many things wrong with the school. Based on my experience with the administration there, any changes are either going to exacerbate or completely ignore the issues that currently exist.”
She went on to say that previously she wanted to study at Georgia State, but due to the merger, she will not apply.
Some professors fear losing their job. Others are concerned about the access of higher education available to students.
A calculus professor from Georgia Perimeter College who wished to remain anonymous told The Signal, “Faculty layoffs are a very real possibility… To be frank, I seriously fear for my job. [I] might have to start looking elsewhere.”
GPC English Professor Joseph Corin worries about what this means for the availability of higher education to students.
“My main concern about the merger is that it will hike tuition past the point of affordability for many students, even if the tuition becomes two-tiered. One of GPC’s best features has been its accessibility regardless of financial class and it would be a shame for that to go away,” he said.
I also spoke with a GSU English Instructor who asked to remain anonymous about what this merger could mean for our university.
He sat down with The Signal and said: “Conceptually, I have no problem with the University System of Georgia (USG) trimming the fat; it needs to be done. However, I do not think this crazy merging of schools is all that necessary, especially with the larger ones.”
It may have helped a little when they did it with the smaller schools in South Georgia, but it’s getting harder and harder to realize how there will be any real money saved in the Kennesaw State/Southern Poly merger or the GSU/GPC merger.
They will probably have to amortize the cost of doing it over quite a few years before they can even book any savings whatsoever. So they had to, in essence, “spend money to save money.”
Cutting each individual school’s budget, however, wouldn’t have had the same problem. That would have been a “right now” savings, but that would result in more political push-back, so I can kind of understand why they’ve done it this way.
I personally (and we’re getting into a little of my political philosophy here) don’t like things that are centrally-planned and centrally-managed. I think the increased efficiency that comes with that isn’t worth the freedom it takes away from so many.
Georgia Perimeter, for all its faults including its multi-million-dollar deficit, has an organizational culture that “fits” its faculty, staff and students. And that organizational culture, you can bet, is probably a damn sight different than what we have at Georgia State.
I’ve talked to some of our faculty and their opinion is that the GPC folks (especially the students) will be mostly excited to have “Georgia State University” on their diplomas.
However, whereas we already have a mechanism in many of our academic departments to preside over 1000- and 2000-level (i.e. “core course”) classes, I think that some faculty here may worry that since all of GPC’s courses are 1000- and 2000-level-type stuff, then will they just add all of that administrative responsibility onto our existing functions without any increase in the budgets for those functions?
That would be a way to realize the potential cost savings, but it would mean a lot more work for those of us who work within those functions.
This whole thing is scary to a lot of people because, I think, they don’t 1) who will lose their jobs, or 2) which of the above-mentioned eventualities will happen.
Katy Maddux, an English major who graduated in 2012, said she wishes the student population would have been more informed of the merge beforehand.
“It’s not right to keep information from the students population like that. I just wish they would clarify how this merger is going to be beneficial for students and the school as a whole,” Maddux said. “I’m worried that this merge may negatively affect graduation rates, ranking, reputation, etc. I wish they would have taken the time to get input from the GSU community first.”
However, Doctor Pamela Harris-Efurd, BS in Chemistry, Magna Cum Laude, Class of 1979, is more optimistic about the change, claiming, “A rose is a rose is a rose. Changing the name of GPC to GSU does not seem to indicate that the coursework or faculty will change. Therefore, I do not see a big difference.”
Shortly after releasing the decision, the University released a Q&A with President Mark Becker in which the president stated that a “similar example, though a non-public model, is Oxford College of Emory University.”
It seems that “Georgia State will continue to admit students into its bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs by the highly selective standards of a top-tier national research university,” while GPC will retain its current admission standards.
On Jan. 6, Becker told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that “We do not at this point intend to bring associates degrees downtown. We intend to keep the associates degrees on what would be considered satellite campuses, the campuses of perimeter college of Georgia State.”
However, the most concerning of statements released is that from the USG Board of Regents who approved this, claiming that “Reducing administrative costs and functions … will take at least 12 to 18 months to implement the consolidation of the individual institutions and to properly calculate savings attained by the action.”
For me, this begs the question, ‘What was the purpose of this merger if not to save money? Is it a smart idea to go ahead and implement such a large decision as this without knowing how much is going to be saved?’
According to the Q&A, the Board states that “A decrease in the number of jobs will likely occur, but until details are worked out it is not possible to know how many or which ones.” This fuels the unfortunate concepts mentioned by Joseph Corin in that quiet layoffs might be the alternative to the less politically appealing idea of budget cuts.