Rationale and Background
In his September 14, 2011 report to the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents, Chancellor Huckaby announced that a study would be conducted to determine if “any campus consolidations would further our teaching, research, and service missions in a more fiscally prudent way.” On November 8, 2011, the USG Board of Regents (BOR) approved six principles to be utilized in assessing the potential consolidations:
- Increase opportunities to raise education attainment levels
- Improve accessibility, regional identity, and compatibility
- Avoid duplication of academic programs while optimizing access to instruction
- Create significant potential for economies of scale and scope
- Enhance regional economic development
- Streamline administrative services while maintaining or improving service level and quality
Excerpts from the current Vision, Mission and Goals Statement for the BOR and the USG that are particularly pertinent to the purpose of this consolidation include:
- “The University System of Georgia will create a more educated Georgia….” (Vision Statement)
- “The mission of the University System of Georgia is to contribute to the educational, cultural, economic, and social advancement of Georgia…by bringing [its] resources…to bear on the economic development of the State and the continuing education of its citizens.” (Mission Statement)
- “Each institution in the University System of Georgia will be characterized by …a commitment to sharing physical, human, information, and other resources in collaboration with other System institutions…to expand and enhance programs and services available to the citizens of Georgia.” (Mission Statement)
- “The University System of Georgia will ensure access to academic excellence and educational opportunities for all Georgians by [achieving]…[ Goal] 1. Renew excellence in undergraduate education to meet 21st century student needs.” (Goals Statement)
- “The University System of Georgia will ensure access to academic excellence and educational opportunities for all Georgians by [achieving]…[ Goal] 6. Increase efficiency, working as a System.” (Goals Statement)
The Chancelor's guiding principles and the Board’s actions were heavily influenced by long-term and ongoing environmental scanning of past, current and prospective economic and governmental conditions as well as state-level and national concerns about key issues such as degree completion rates, educational attainment levels of the workforce, public demand for higher education opportunities, tuition costs, cutbacks in governmental expenditures, and increased governmental efficiency
Both North Georgia College & State University (NGCSU) and Gainesville State College (GSC) were SACSCOC-accredited institutions. NGCSU was a Level V institution of 6,500 students and GSC was Level II with 8,700 students; the consolidated University of North Georgia (UNG) is Level V. Degree overlap between the institutions was minimal, and occurred for the BS in psychology and biology. The main campus of GSC was located in Oakwood, GA (Gainesville Campus) with an additional campus in Watkinsville, GA (Oconee Campus). North Georgia College & State University was located in Dahlonega, GA. An instructional site, shared by the two institutions, opened in August 2012 in Cumming, GA. All four locations are part of the consolidated University of North Georgia, and are within about a 40-mile radius of one another in the northern region of the state. Administrative headquarters for the consolidated University of North Georgia is in Dahlonega.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) is the governing board for both institutions, and approved the consolidation of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University, along with three other pairs of institutions, at its January 10, 2012 meeting. Notification to SACSCOC was provided in a letter dated January 18, 2012. The mission statement for the University of North Georgia was approved by the USG Board of Regents at their May 2012 meeting. The Consolidation Prospectus was submitted to SACSCOC in September 2012 and was approved at their December 2012 Board meeting. The USG Board of Regents ratified the consolidation on January 8, 2013 , and Dr. Bonita Jacobs, who was President of NGCSU, was appointed President. The effective date of January, rather than July, 2013 was chosen primarily to avoid disruptive delays to federal financial aid to students. The July option would have likely led to federal financial aid not being available to students in August for fall 2013 registration. Such federal funding delays were less likely if the U.S. Department of Education and the consolidated University of North Georgia had more time between January and August to process the paperwork required to shift accounts and allocate FY 2013-14 funds to the new institution in a timely manner and ensure a smooth transition for students.
Ensuring Academic Integrity
One of the first steps in the process of the consolidation was the adoption of a new mission. The new mission statement is guiding decisions such as admissions criteria, tuition policy, and core curriculum learning outcomes for all committees, departments, programs, and services:
The University of North Georgia, a regional multi-campus institution and premier senior military college, provides a culture of academic excellence in a student-focused environment that includes quality education, service, inquiry and creativity. This is accomplished through broad access to comprehensive academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia.
Both institutions spent 2012 planning and preparing for the consolidation. Dr. Bonita Jacobs, President of UNG, chaired the Consolidation Implementation Committee (CIC), which consisted of a broad array of representatives from each institution. The CIC provided overall guidance for the consolidation process and made recommendations to the Board of Regents as needed. To direct the day-to-day planning of NGCSU and GSC consolidation, Dr. Jacobs appointed the Executive Planning Team (EPT), which was composed of the current vice presidents, SACSCOC liaisons, and chief information officers of each institution. The EPT guided more than 70 detailed work teams of faculty, staff, and students for their areas of operation. Generally, there were 6 to 10 members in a workgroup with equal numbers from the two institutions. These workgroups included strong representation of faculty. The 19 undergraduate discipline curriculum workgroups within Academic Affairs were are composed entirely of faculty. Examples of their work included reviewing and aligning course listings (including course descriptions, prerequisites, and learning outcomes) and developing consolidated plans of study for degree programs. The 16 non-discipline-specific workgroups within Academic Affairs were composed largely of faculty members, and faculty were represented on many other workgroups outside of Academic Affairs. The Academic Affairs Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs at GSC and NGCSU, provided oversight to the 35 academic work groups. All academic recommendations were reviewed by the Academic Affairs Steering Committee to determine if the academic proposals were ready for submission to the academic approval committees. All of these efforts were to facilitate the smooth transition of policies and procedures and ensure the academic integrity of the consolidated University of North Georgia.
In consolidating these two institutions, the enrollments, operating budgets, number of faculty and staff, and inventory of facilities and physical assets have been combined. The consolidation has not resulted in notable increases or decreases on any of these key dimensions; however, there are selective staffing revisions for UNG's administrative structure that went into effect in January 2013 following SACSCOC approval for the consolidation. We anticipate that we will be authorized to reinvest cost savings from the collapsing of two administrative structures into the new institution’s operation.
It is important to note that no substantive reduction has occurred as a result of this consolidation in the types and delivery locations of existing degree programs or the quality of support services currently provided to students by the partner institutions being consolidated. Any reductions noted in the combined authorized list of degree programs for the University of North Georgia have resulted from the deletion of deactivated or inactive programs or the efficiencies of consolidating two similar programs into one. To the contrary, there is an expectation that the institutional consolidation will facilitate the offering of expanded educational opportunities at some of the University of North Georgia’s different campus locations.