Consolidation will ultimately benefit GSU

First impressions aren’t always right.

That’s my takeaway after taking the better part of two weeks to mull over the implications of the GSU-GPC merger since the news broke.

But I want to refrain from using that word. “Merger” isn’t quite right. Consolidation is the term the University Board of Regents and schools are careful to call it, and that seems fairer.

So to set the matter straight, Georgia State is effectively absorbing Georgia Perimeter, and I think it’s important to frame the discussion in that way.

Though GPC representatives will be involved in the implementation committee set up by the regents, per the consolidation FAQ document, GSU executives will be running the show.

That means President Becker will ultimately be in charge and making the important decisions like which facilities must be shuttered, which programs GSU will keep and how the school will integrate its two-year students into its expanded downtown campus.

As a recent alum, that does a lot to assuage my fears, especially considering GPC is currently running a deficit and doesn’t have a great reputation. Which brings me to my greatest fear of all: how will the merger affect the value of my degree?

The short answer is that I don’t think it will. At least not over the long term.

In the six years since Becker took office, GSU’s graduation rates have been lauded nationally even as the school has admitted a record number of students and invested millions in facilities upgrades and construction.

With that proven track record and Turner Field on the horizon, plus assurances that GSU will retain its same academic standards for admittance to its downtown campus, I think GSU’s reputation is safe.

In 20 years, few will remember Georgia Perimeter College, but everyone will know the 50,000+ juggernaut that is Georgia State. And that’s especially true nationally.

Besides, GSU is already the top destination for GPC students with approximately 1,500 transfers every year. And in terms of rankings, GSU’s four-year programs can be counted separately from the two-year part.

Plus, university officials are also saying all the right things about how they’re going to executive this plan.

Will academic standards stay the same or improve? Yes. Will GSU’s Turner Field vision still go through as planned? Yes. Will undocumented students still be able to attend two-year programs? Yes. Will there be a separate tuition scheme so that the two-year programs are still affordable? Yes, again.

Get the point?

Everyday it’s harder and harder to focus on the downsides of this deal, though I’m sure there will be significant hurdles that pop up during implementation.

For example, the folks in Georgia State’s PR and Marketing Department certainly have their work cut out for themselves. I anticipate it will be difficult to project the image of a unified, academically-prestigious research university with the commuter college monkey that is GPC on its back.

To that point, as far as I know, one thing that was not discussed in the consolidation town hall meeting on the 13th was how the other campuses will be branded. For example, will the campuses adopt a flagship/subsidiary model a la GSU-Decatur or GSU-Dunwoody? Or will these campuses carry their own college name?

I’m trying not to read too much into President Becker’s Jan. 6 interview with the AJC (above) but it certainly looks like GPC may be known as the “Georgia State University Perimeter College.” Seems simple enough.

All of that is to say: Things could be worse. Much worse.

But given GSU’s nationally recognized track record with improving graduation rates and recent clarifications by school officials about how the university will handle  priorities like Turner Field, I think if any university can pull this off, it’s Georgia State.

And that makes me a lot more optimistic then when I first heard the news.

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