A controversial and almost completely unpublicized effort to subsume Armstrong State University into Georgia Southern University took a major step towards reality this morning with combined statements from both university presidents and the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents.
The Regents are expected to approve the merger at its Jan. 11 meeting.
"The Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia continue to assess how its institutions can effectively and efficiently serve the state and provide access to education to its citizens," said Georgia Southern President Jaime Hebert, who is expected to head the new entity, which will retain the name Georgia Southern University and would be the fourth-largest in the state.
"Chancellor Steve Wrigley will recommend to the Board of Regents that Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University be consolidated at the next Board of Regents meeting, which will be held January 11," Hebert says.
"The recommended consolidation will combine the best of both institutions, which are just an hour apart and ultimately serve many of the same students coming from southeast Georgia who are seeking higher education."
Outgoing Armstrong President Linda Bleicken, who had already announced her retirement from the position, said in a statement:
"Fortunately, Armstrong and Georgia Southern are both strong institutions defined by a shared focus on supporting student success, talented faculty and staff, and a powerful commitment to academic excellence."
Many questions remain, of course, largely due to the seemingly clandestine nature of the agreement, which came as news to blindsided faculty and students at both institutions.
If approved as expected, the two universities wouldn't combine until 2018, sources say.