We’ve all seen the recent stories and commentary about plans to merge some campuses of Georgia’s public universities.
The concept sounds good, especially in areas where two small, liberal arts colleges are within spitting distance of each other. The ideas took on new life this past year when Hank Huckaby was named as the new chancellor of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
Then, in more recent days, we’ve learned that Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University will be among those to merge. In response, most of what we’ve heard locally have been positive, though the majority of the comments are from those who also thought it was a good idea to rename the Medical College of Georgia – in other words, from the usual muckety-mucks unlikely to question proposals from bigwigs and bureaucrats.
Until there is more flesh put on the bones, I don’t really have an opinion on the ASU-GHSU merger despite so much gushing about it elsewhere. But I do believe there should be more discussion about a nearly ignored elephant in the room.
For example, in a story last week, there was a quote from state Sen. Buddy Carter, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, who said he expects passage of the legislation merging more than half a dozen schools around the state:
“It’s going to show a cost savings, and it’s going to be good for all involved,” Carter said.
See the elephant? No? Where are most of those “savings” coming from?
One word: Jobs.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; Lord knows it’s an awful idea to think of governments primarily as job-producing entities.
But the reality is that much of the reason our broader community has avoided the lows (and, for that matter, missed out on the highs) of the economic pendulum swings is due to the influence of steady government jobs, including those at Fort Gordon, SRS, ASU and GHSU. Many of those jobs pay well and have good benefits, and provide a steady stream of state and federal funding to our community that otherwise, in many cases, would just flow somewhere else.
So when state officials talk about “streamlining” and “cost-savings” associated with merging ASU and GHSU, and when others make comments like one wealthy board member who said he hadn’t heard anything negative about it, remember that much of those savings are going to come by cutting your neighbor’s job. Same thing with proposed cuts to the military.
If those jobs aren’t needed under the new order, fine. Just don’t be surprised when the house next door goes up for sale, or into foreclosure, or when some of your customers disappear. That state and federal funding doesn’t just vanish into some bureaucratic black hole; some of it goes into the checking account of your friends. Or you.
Haven’t heard anything negative, eh? Wait until the pink slips come.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/