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Georgia Southern community gets answers to merger questions at first town hall meeting

GSU town hall.jpg
Georgia Southern University faculty and students got the opportunity to have some of their merger questions answered Thursday afternoon. (Credit: Josie Gregory)

Georgia Southern University faculty and students got the opportunity to have some of their merger questions answered by President Jaimie Herbert and Armstrong President Dr. Linda Bleicken as well as members from the University System of Georgia at the first merger town hall meeting Thursday afternoon.

It was a packed house at GSU's Performing Arts Center as the four-person panel answered merger questions.

The number one answer was fairly simple: "We don't know yet."

GSU sophomore Connor Crosby said the amount of deferred or unanswered questions does concern him a bit.

Many students at both universities feel the decision to merge was too rushed, and that officials did not take into account what would happen to things, including scholarships, rising tuition costs, and both schools losing their small community feel.

"If there are designated scholarships for students on particular campuses, this will not change that," Shelley Nickels, executive vice chancellor for Strategy and Fiscal Affairs with the University System of Georgia, said when addressing scholarship concerns.

Crosby said GSU and Armstrong market themselves as "small-community-feel schools," and fears GSU expansion into Hinesville and Savannah may dilute that message for future students.

With the three spread out campuses, the one question that kept coming up is, what programs will be at each campus?

The panel said all of the details still have to be worked out and, over the next 18 months, groups consisting of students, staff, and members of the university system will evaluate things like admission and degree requirements and how to combine athletic teams.

"They will be making the decisions and recommendations to Dr. Bleicken and I for the most optimal restructuring," Herbert said.

There was one question the panel did have an answer for: Will tuition go up? The panel said no.

This merger is Georgia's seventh, and now makes Georgia Southern the state's fifth largest university.