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Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 12:00pm

More University Mergers Possible

University System of Georgia officials could merge more state schools. The state Board of Regents on Wednesday discussed ways to streamline both property and personnel.

The talks took place during a strategic planning session at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. On the heels of consolidating eight institutions into four, the Regents are still looking for ways to be more efficient.

Specifically, some on the Board say every college may not need its own president.

Hank Huckaby is the Chancellor of the University System. He says reducing administrators frees up funds for more teachers or new courses, for example.

“In consolidating, we could do things more effectively," he said during a break from the meeting. "We could provide more educational opportunities and we would step down the amount of money spent on administration, not from the point of decreasing the bottom line but from the point to enhance academic side to the enterprise and have less administration. Yeah, I’m not sure how far we can go with that but it certainly is something that needs to be on the table going forward.”

Kessel Stelling, Jr is on the board. He told fellow boardmembers that his bank, Columbus-based Synovus, had to face a similar reality when it decided it didn't need multiple chief loan officers and other high-level executives, for example.

A spokesman for the board said no decisions about merging more colleges would be made before the University System completes the consolidations already announced.

The Regents also discussed using campus buildings more efficiently.

Huckaby says a study is already underway of how the universities are using classroom space.

“We made it very clear to the presidents of our institutions that we’re going to use that data when we analyze need for the request for a new building, for example,” he said.

Boardmembers said the University System could educate more students if it used its space better. They also said the academic world is increasingly embracing online learning in which building more classrooms, for example, may not make sense.

On Tuesday, the board approved providing more oversight over how colleges pay for some new buildings.