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Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 1:04pm

Chancellor Studies Campus Mergers

University Board of Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby, says he's studying whether it makes sense to merge some colleges.

The idea could have major consequences in Savannah, home to two public universities.

Amstrong Atlantic State University and Savannah State University are a few miles apart, each with their own administrations, operations and potentials for cost-savings.

Huckaby is visiting the two locations this week as part of a tour that started July 16 and that will take him to all University System institutions by mid November.

He also visited the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Georgia Southern University.

At Armstrong, Huckaby met with Armstrong President Linda Bleicken, members of the President's Cabinet and groups representing the faculty and the student body.

Huckaby says, the public university system has to ensure it's the right size.

"Particularly in this environment, it's a time seriously to look at consolidation," Huckaby says. "It's come up in the past and really hasn't been given serious consideration but we intend to do it this time."

Huckaby stresses, the study is just that -- a study -- and he won't back mergers unless they makes sense for both dollars and education.

Local politicians, students, alumni and African-American groups have shot down past merger attemps here.

Savannah State is a historically black school.

"We have two goals," Huckaby says. "One is to save money and be more efficient, but at the same time, we hope in the process, we will improve the quality and quantity of educational opportunities available to Georgians."

The merger study comes in the former state lawmaker's first year as Chancellor and amid legislative calls for more belt-tightening at the state's 35 college campuses.

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