The AJC Editorial Board
The pain and challenges of merging eight campuses must lead to benefits greater than financial savings. The quality of higher education and access to it must improve for Georgia students.
Ever since the GI Bill flooded campuses with thousands of new students, America’s colleges have followed one model — a growth model. But, as Thomas Longin, board president of the Society for College and University Planning, said, “Everyone is real clear now that the new normal doesn’t look anything like a growth model, and, no matter what else you do, you are going to have to consolidate programs.”
To its credit, Georgia has embraced that new economic reality sooner than most states, taking the unprecedented and unpopular action of consolidating eight colleges into four. In doing so, however, the state has to ensure that consolidation leads to improved quality at its reshaped institutions.
The University System has to communicate that the pain caused by consolidation — the job losses, program eliminations and blows to civic pride — is outweighed by the education and efficiency enhancements that will result. Lawmakers and community leaders are already objecting to the plan. Such political fallout has made consolidation a rarity in public education.