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USG Chancellor Launches Three Efforts to Change Higher Education in Georgia

Atlanta — September 14, 2011

Since Hank Huckaby began his work on July 1 as the University System of Georgia’s (USG) chancellor, in meetings statewide he has signaled his intent to make changes to the public higher education model in Georgia.

Today he made a down payment with his announcement of three new initiatives. One will determine if the potential exists to consolidate any institutions. The remaining two initiatives change how the University System plans and constructs campus buildings.

“The board is here to help and support you. It is high time to look at some of these critical issues; it won’t be easy, but we will support you,” said Board of Regents (BOR) chair, Benjamin Tarbutton, III, who endorsed and applauded the intent of Chancellor Huckaby’s plans.

In remarks today to the System’s governing Board of Regents, Huckaby said it is clear from his meetings with legislators, business leaders and others that today is a new era in which the good stewardship of state resources means fundamental changes in how the University System operates. “This is why I have stressed the need to focus on performance: how well we use our resources to educate students and encourage faculty,” he said.

Therefore, Huckaby announced plans to look at the System’s 35 campuses to assess if any campus consolidations can better control costs while meeting the System’s teaching, research and service missions.

“I believe it is time for the system to study if campus consolidations are justified and will enhance our ability to serve the people of Georgia at less cost,” Huckaby said. “We in the university system should be the first to ask questions of ourselves to make sure we are serving the State in the best way.”

The System has 35 degree-granting institutions, including four research universities and 15 four-year colleges and universities offering a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are 14 state colleges, which while they have a primary two-year mission to provide broad access for students, also are authorized by the regents to offer limited bachelor degree programs, and two, two-year colleges, offering associate degree programs only.

Huckaby said he recognizes that a consolidation study is a significant step for the System with the potential for far-reaching changes. He promised a deliberate and objective review with substantial input and said that no plans have been made for specific institutional consolidation. “Our task at this point is to develop the evaluative criteria and processes to be used in identifying any potential consolidations,” he said.

The other two initiatives the chancellor announced relate to the System’s process for identifying and constructing facilities on the campuses. Currently, the USG owns more than 3,100 buildings totaling more than 66 million square feet, valued at more than $10.5 billion.

One initiative will be a study of how space in the USG is utilized. “We need to determine what we have, how well we use it, and what else we need,” Huckaby said.

In the future, Huckaby said, campuses will be required to work closely with the chancellor’s office as they develop proposals for new programs and facilities and should consider all alternatives before sending a building request to the System office. “We must carefully balance the need to construct new facilities with the need to rehabilitate, modernize and maintain existing facilities,” he said.

The third initiative deals with the design of buildings by requiring architects to meet with the chancellor’s senior staff and the System Facilities Office before any design work is undertaken to “ensure that we all share the same philosophy about a building’s character, its functionality, and the materials used in it,” said Huckaby.

In setting the context for these three initiatives, Huckaby said that the contemporary higher education model is a product of the exploding demand experienced after World War II and subsequent generations of baby boomers.

“Our predecessors met those challenges with a growth formula: build the buildings, add the faculty, initiate new academic programs, enroll the students – and do it as fast as possible,” Huckaby said. “Today is different. While we as a System continue to grow along with the state, the political climate, the economic realities and the budget constraints mean that the ‘old growth equals rewards’ model no longer works as well. Not only has the climate changed, but so have societal needs and citizen expectations. We seek change to improve our performance and our outcomes. Everything we do is geared toward improving higher education and creating a more highly educated Georgia.”

Regent Robert Hatcher also expressed his support, “These are tough economic times in this country,” he said. “These initiatives will be a huge help to find additional ways to put dollars in the classrooms”

In offering his commendations to the chancellor Regent Larry Walker said, “It is an exciting time to be a regent.”

For the full text of Chancellor Huckaby’s remarks, please see:

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