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Positions at state colleges may be trimmed
Consolidation criteria to be released in coming days
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University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby is hopeful that Georgia's 35 public colleges and universities will receive full funding for fiscal year 2013 regardless of talk about consolidation.

Full funding could mean tuition increases will be lower and about $100 million will be distributed among the institutions.

"We're cautiously optimistic that if state revenues continue to grow, although modestly, that we will have a chance at really getting that," Huckaby said.

Huckaby said in September he wanted to study whether any of the state's colleges and universities could be consolidated to save money. He said Monday that the criteria for consolidation will be released in the next 10 days.

"I don't think that Georgia Tech will become UGA West or anything like that," said Charles Bullock, Richard B. Russell professor of political science at the University of Georgia. "I don't think they'd be shutting down campuses."

Bullock said the consolidation would most likely mean fewer positions, not fewer programs.

"You might be able to do this with fewer deans, fewer vice presidents or department heads," he said. "An institution with satellite campuses would potentially have one English department head, one political science department head ... at a central location, not one department head per program per campus."

Bullock said geographic location could be part of the criteria for consolidating campuses.

State officials suggested that historically black colleges in Albany and Savannah could be targets for consolidation, but Huckaby said it was too early to say which colleges might be merged.

"While there has been discussion at the system level about a study to examine possible consolidations, nothing has been done yet and we cannot speculate on that topic," Kate Maine, director of university relations for North Georgia College & State University, said in an email to The Times.

Bullock said when Tennessee merged two campuses several years ago, one college was a historically black college.

When they combined, the school retained the name of that college, and the other one ceased to exist.

Despite the possibility of campuses fusing together, North Georgia and Gainesville State College officials plan to continue developing an instructional site in Cumming set to open next fall.

"For more than 25 years North Georgia has been providing classes through the University Center at Gainesville State," Maine said. "This new instructional center is a continuation of that existing partnership to serve the students of Northeast Georgia."

Budget woes for colleges are far from over, however, even if there's $100 million more to go around next year. State officials anticipate that 100,000 more students will enroll in college over the next 10 years.

Proposed solutions include renovating existing buildings to accommodate the increased enrollment instead of building new facilities, and funding colleges based on performance instead of enrollment.

"The traditional formula funding based on enrollment was eliminated in the current year budget and we are hopeful that it will be restored in the budget for fiscal year 2013," Maine said.

"Additionally, Chancellor Huckaby has indicated that future funding may be tied to performance measures. If that happens, that would benefit North Georgia, which has a strong track record in terms of student academic performance and graduation rates."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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