The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday on the expectation that University System of Georgia chancellor Hank Huckaby — himself a Georgia State man — would propose the merger of the massive downtown juggernaut that is Georgia State University with the sleepy, suburban, eastside that is Georgia Perimeter College.
When this news came across my Twitter stream last night while I was half-listening to my 6-year-old read a book before bed, I was rather staggered. See, I went to Georgia State before they drummed me out for being too poor and stupid. Some 10 years on, I’ve found an educational haven at Georgia Perimeter, where late last year I completed two online courses with two As (and one of them was a college algebra class).
Immediately, I encountered the odd mixture of excitement and trepidation you usually feel only after the first time a girl says she loves you. I was dumbstruck. Might I now find myself falling back-asswards into a degree from Georgia State after all?
Here are some questions — and some hypotheses — that ran through my mind last night:
Will they kick me out?
This was the first thing that crossed my mind. Georgia State was so done with me, I even had a hard time paying them the $300 I still owed them so I could get my transcript to go back to college. Would they weed me out? I’m going to act under the assumption that I’m grandfathered in. Like the dilapidated mobile home next to the house on the lot next door, you buy the property, you get the mess that comes with it.
Georgia Perimeter offers online-only degrees; will that continue?
A number of the nation’s finest institutions have answered the call to expand access to education by offering online credits. Many have collaborated through efforts like Coursera and edX. Coursera’s enrollment numbers almost 11 million who engage in free online programs offered by institutions as varied as the University of Michigan and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. I, myself, took a class on Coursera as a “proof of concept” before pursuing a degree online, to prove that my schedule would work with an online class. And edX is a product of a partnership between Harvard, MIT and others.
In expanding access online, Georgia State lags far behind. I cannot find a single Georgia State degree that can be completed online only. In merging with Georgia Perimeter — which offers 18 online degrees — Georgia State would immediately acquire the largest online program in the University System of Georgia. So, using the above analogy, Georgia State gets the abandoned mobile home, but they also get the above-ground pool, so that’s a win.
Will tuition go up?
Oh, most certainly. There’s no question that Georgia State will start nudging up the fees and tuition for Georgia Perimeter’s students. Though the budget for Georgia Perimeter is only a fraction of Georgia State’s, becoming part of a massive research institution will not come cheap. Currently, Georgia Perimeter charges $125 per semester hour for online classes, regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency.
What will become of Georgia Perimeter’s admissions?
Maureen Downey, an education columnist for the AJC, mentioned that Georgia Perimeter has “essentially open admissions.” I don’t think she meant it as a slight, but it still hurt.
Conversely, Georgia State has rather rigorous admissions requirements. Doug Roberson, who covers Georgia State athletics, offered a pretty good insight into Georgia State’s admissions requirements in this Dec. 3 article.
According to Roberson:
To receive consideration for admission, high school students need a minimum 2.8 grade-point average compiled in 17 courses of Math (four courses), English (four units), Science (four units), Social Science (three units) and Foreign Language (two units in same language).
Additionally, applicants need SATs with minimums of at least 430 verbal/critical reading and 400 on the mathematics. Or, students need electronic ACT scores (including the Writing Test) with a minimum composite score of 19 with at least 17 on the English and 17 on the mathematics. If the SAT or ACT score doesn’t meet the minimum, the student-athletes are considered special admits and are looked at on a case-by case basis, of which few are allowed admission each year.
Again, those are minimums. Georgia State advises applicants that the average grade-point range in core classes is 3.2-3.7, SAT range for admissible freshmen is 970-1190, and the ACT range is 21-27.
Oh, but that’s not all:
These scores, combined with the GPA, are plugged into the Freshman Index, which must meet a minimum score of 2,500 to be admitted.
The two Freshman Index formulas are:
SAT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + SAT verbal + SAT math.
ACT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + (ACT composite x 42) + 88.
In calculating the grade-point average for Freshman Index purposes, the applicant’s transcript is calculated using 16 of the academic (college preparatory) courses.
As you can see if you go to the admissions tool on Georgia State’s website, a 2.8 high school GPA with a 430 verbal and 400 math will result in ADMISSION DENIED.
On the other hand, Georgia Perimeter let me in even after I crashed and burned at Georgia State. And I applied there after the admissions director of another school told me to because “Georgia Perimeter will take about anyone.”
While this means that Georgia Perimeter may become a more academically rigorous institution, that’s not all positive. My poor grades were largely due to an extraordinary work schedule I maintained throughout college. I had to make earning money my priority over my education; and I’ve paid dearly for that predicament. However, I’m not alone in this necessity. Many students throughout Georgia need the safety net, the second chance that Georgia Perimeter offers. And the long hours I logged working on my courses this past semester, as well as the As I earned, indicate that commitment can run deep even in the most beleaguered of students.
Will they consolidate campuses?
Georgia Perimeter currently operates five campuses: Alpharetta, Clarkston, Decatur, Dunwoody and Newton County. Georgia State, aside from its vast downtown campus, also operates a branch in Alpharetta. The institutions have vastly different missions; Georgia State is a major urban research institute, Georgia Perimeter is a two-year college designed to serve a maximum number of students.
Multiple locations increase access, yes, but it also drives cost. There are more roofs to repair, more custodians to pay, more square feet to police, that sort of thing. I’m hesitant to think that Georgia State would care to maintain a campus several miles east of Covington when its focus has been on new downtown construction — including acquiring and redeveloping the current Turner Field property when the Atlanta Braves vacate for Cobb County. If Georgia State is really interested in maximizing that whole “largest online program” thing, that makes it less likely still that it will choose to keep all five Georgia Perimeter campuses open. Raising tuition also will impact enrollment, further justifying a decision to consolidate campuses.
Will this make it easier for students to get a four-year degree?
Yes, sort of. Georgia Perimeter offers a large number of associate’s degrees as stepping stones to four-year degrees any beyond. The school also maintains transfer admission guarantees, or TAGs, with a number of institutions. These include out-of-state schools, like the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Kentucky, as well as in-state schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and, well, Georgia State.
Which means that, were you to meet the minimum 2.7 GPA requirement and complete a set list of required courses, you’d be eligible to enroll at Georgia State, guaranteed.
So, there are my expectations. It may yet take more than a year for the merger to be formalized, though the Board of Regents approved Huckaby’s proposal this morning. The merger will make Georgia State the largest college in Georgia, with an enrollment in the neighborhood of 54,000 students.
Not that it will help it finally field a decent football team.