January 6 was the beginning of the final year for Robb Watts’ as the final president of Georgia Perimeter College. The remainder of 2015 will be the most important four months of the President’s career as he helps GPC become a part of GSU.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) plans to review the proposal submitted by both schools on Sept. 15 in their December meeting. If the proposal is accepted then it will be moved to the Board of Regents for a second vote during their meeting in January 2016. If the proposal is approved again, then the schools will officially be consolidated and GPC will no longer exist as its own school.
“Once the Board [of Regents] votes [in January], there will be one college, one president, one mascot, and one team. There will be one institution and my role will no longer exist. Dr. Mark Becker will be president of the consolidated university,” said Watts in a phone interview with the Collegian.
The ending of Watts’ career at GPC has not discouraged him from completing his final mission. Watts’ first concern like everyone on the Consolidation Implementation Committee (CIC) is to find the best way to use the resources from both schools to provide a great learning environment for the students. The consolidation was determined to be the best option to achieve this goal.
“The benefit is that students have increased academic choices. By consolidating institutions they have saved administrative cost and those funds have been put back into the academic programs which has expanded the number of degree programs and offered more classes to students at different campuses. Students at the five previous consolidated school have more academic choices now following consolidations than they did before,” said Watts.
During the consolidating process resources like the student information system, financial aid, and staff and faculty payroll for both schools are being reviewed to see how they can be used in the new university. The schools have agreed to a couple of early details that are understood by all parties involved in this process.
The application will be the same for both schools but the academic standards for both schools should remain consistent with what they are today. Meaning, it should still be easier for a student to be accepted the new GPC if they apply here.
The rate of tuition will still be different for GPC and GSU. “Everyone wants GPC to remain affordable for students. The Board of Regents, [University System of Georgia] Chancellor, Hank Huckaby and consolidation committee are committed to this,” said Watts.
The rate of tuition for the 2016-2017 school year will not be known until the Board of Regents determines it at their spring meeting in April 2016. Watts does offer encouraging news for students who are concerned about the cost of GPC in the future.
“Gratefully, the Board of Regents at the access institutions like GPC over the last four years have had the lowest tuition increases in decades. They are trying very hard to keep the tuition increases low, and I expect that to continue,” said Watts.
Watts is committed to leaving GPC in the best position he can when the new vice provost takes over as the leader of the access college next year. However, the president will not have any influence or involvement with the selection of his successor.
GSU’s consolidation website reports that provost of academic affairs, Dr. Risa Palm announced a search for the new vice provost of GPC on Sept. 9. A committee of faculty, staff, and students from both schools will review applications in October. Interviews with three finalists will be held Oct. 12-20 and the committee will make recommendations to President Becker in late October.
The Collegian has heard two questions from students about the consolidation that were asked to Watts during this interview. Why is GPC the best school for Georgia State to consolidate their resources with?
“Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia State have a long standing relationship that goes back over 50 years. 20 percent of Georgia State’s undergraduate students were GPC students. We are already the major feeder institution for undergraduate students to Georgia State and our students do very well when they get there. There is a longstanding relationship and a pipeline for GPC students so the schools are already closely aligned and that made for a good future relationship for consolidation,” said Watts.
What are the positive aspects of the consolidation that students should expect even if they do not agree with the decision? “For students going to college next year, there will be an easier pathway from the current GPC to Georgia State. Students in the future will be Georgia State students, so it will be easier for student to earn their associate’s degree and move on to earn their bachelor’s degree in the future,” said Watts.
Watts is excited about the opportunity that sits before him and the consolidation committee as this chapter of his career comes to a close. He hopes in his final months that the ground can be laid for the new school to become a new model of higher education in the United State as the new regime takes over to continue his shared vision with President Becker.
“Dr. Becker is a visionary and transformational president, and he will do this right and we will look back and say we were here at the ground floor when this was created and we were very proud to be here when this was created.”