Savannah, GA (WTGS FOX28) — Armstrong State University President Dr. Linda Bleicken spoke out after the Georgia Board of Regents approved the merger with Georgia Southern University.
Bleicken is hoping to address the various concerns students and staff have voiced the last few days.
The recommendation the University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley put out Friday to merge Georgia Southern and Armstrong State has come with major opposition from Armstrong State students.
They have already staged two protests and signed several petitions to try and stop the vote. With only three days between the merge announcement and the vote, many students and staff members felt their opinions were not being taken into consideration.
"Do I understand that our campus, that the community, that our alumni felt blindsided? Of course, I do, but this is a very typical process," Bleicken said.
Over the past few says, students have voiced their concerns over the fear of bigger class sizes, a tuition increase, and students potentially losing athletic scholarships.
Bleicken said the board merely votes on the merge. The details are then left up to the schools to hammer out.
Concerning tuition hikes, she said a decision has not been made. In reference to classroom size, she said Armstrong would not be able to handle much more than the existing 7,100 students.
As for athletic scholarships through this school year and the next, she said, "if we have committed to them previously, we will honor that scholarship."
Officials said the entire purpose of the merger is to better serve students. However, some students wonder how. because the two institutions are an hour apart. Bleicken said it is about playing off of each school's strengths, like the large health profession production at Armstrong and a strong engineering program at Southern.
"Our combined strengths actually create something greater than we would separately," she said.
Bleicken said she is sad to see Armstrong State go, but asks students and staff to be patient.
"This is a process that will take 18 months. There will be many, many opportunities to contribute to what the final outcome is," she said.
Both Armstrong and Georgia Southern are hosting a series of meetings to get input from the community on what they want to see and what they do not want to see.
The first meeting will be next Thursday, January 19th, at 4:30 p.m. at Armstrong's Fine Arts auditorium.
You can email questions to email@example.com prior to the meeting, or text them in during the meeting. If you cannot make the meeting, you can live stream it.