University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby visited Kennesaw State University Thursday as part of a series of visits to the state's public colleges. He's looking for redundant colleges and academic programs that could potentially be combined.
By Jeanne Bonner
Updated: 3 days ago
ATLANTA — The University System of Georgia could announce as early as Dec. 1 which colleges and programs are top candidates for consolidation. Chancellor Hank Huckaby says in the next ten days, he will release the criteria guiding the recommendations.
Huckaby says the University System could consolidate some colleges by the beginning of the next academic year.
He’s visiting the state's public colleges to gather information about duplicate departments or operations that could be combined.
It’s part of a cost-savings effort, and Huckaby intends to move quickly.
“We’re on a fast time line," Huckaby said Thursday during a visit to Kennesaw State University. "This is not something that we’re going to drag out forever. The issue of consolidation has been brought up several times in the last 20 or 30 years but no one has ever really followed through. It is our intention to follow through.”
While the closures will be another round of belt-tightening, Huckaby says he worries that some budget cuts have forced many colleges to rely too much on part-time professors.
“I think all of our adjunct faculty are doing an excellent job and we are thankful to have them," he said. "[But] we need to get back to funding some of the full-time vacancies.”
Huckaby is a former state lawmaker who became chancellor in July. He announced plans to consider college mergers in September. The decision could have implications for Amstrong Atlantic State University and Savannah State University, which are a few miles apart, each with their own administrations, operations and potentials for cost-savings.
Huckaby says, the public university system has to ensure it's the right size. The University System has 35 college campuses. That doesn't include the state's technical college system.
Henry "Hank" M. Huckaby lauds students and academic progress at Georgia’s third-largest university
Clickhere to view a video of the Chancellor's visit to KSU.
During his visit to Kennesaw State University this week, University System of Georgia Chancellor Henry "Hank" M. Huckaby reiterated his positive impression of the university’s present momentum. In a half-daylong itinerary that concluded with a lunch meeting with students on the KSU campus, Huckaby met with President Daniel S. Papp and his cabinet and engaged in dialogues with faculty, staff and student leaders.
Huckaby, who was installed as chancellor earlier this year, said he was proud of the progress Kennesaw State has made during its nearly half century in existence. The chancellor complimented Papp and his administration on their leadership, and said he was impressed with KSU’s trajectory over the past four years.
“It is amazing to visit the campus today and see what has happened over all these years,” Huckaby said. “Not only has it grown in terms of the number of faculty and students, it has grown dramatically in terms of academic credibility and ranking. This school is doing great things.”
As part of his commitment to visit all units in the University System, Huckaby spent several hours in various meetings on the Kennesaw State campus. The chancellor also made time in his schedule to answer questions from KSU students and have lunch with them in The Commons – Student Culinary Center, the university’s state-of-the-art dining hall.
“Chancellor Huckaby brings a wealth of experience to his position, having served 40 years in higher education,” said Papp. “I have had the privilege of serving with him during my tenure with the Board of Regents, and he is very well-positioned to understand the challenges and opportunities facing higher education in the foreseeable future.”
One of the questions the chancellor was asked during a media conference dealt with the issue of adding collegiate football to the roster of men’s sports. Kennesaw State students voted last fall in favor of funding a football program as early as 2014.
Huckaby said Kennesaw State’s plan was well thought out and a “logical, multi-step plan,” which would not detract from it academic mission. “I am confident, given what has happened here over the past four years the always growing upward trajectory of the quality of education here that the leadership and the faculty will not allow that to happen,” he said.
In addition to meeting with the president’s cabinet, Huckaby interacted with faculty representatives. Following a private meeting with them in the morning, the chancellor met with about 20 student representatives from various student organizations for lunch at the Commons. He solicited feedback from the students and discussed various topics, including HOPE scholarships, institutional fees, impact of budget cuts on campus resources and students’ ability to pay costs, and financial aid, among others.
A former college professor at DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College) and Emory University, Huckaby also has lectured at the University of Georgia and Young Harris College.
Huckaby has a deep understanding of the various issues facing higher education in the state honed from his service. Early in his career, Huckaby worked in the area of admissions at Georgia State University (1967-71) and Gordon College (1972-73). Later, he served as director of the Fiscal Research Program at Georgia State University (1995-97), director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA (1997-2000), senior vice president of Finance and Administration at UGA (2000-06) and a special assistant to the president at UGA on a part-time basis (2006-09).
In a career that goes beyond his long association with the University System, Huckaby has a long history of public service to the citizens of Georgia. His service in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, first as a senior policy coordinator from 1973-75, and then as its director, from 1991-95 has provided extensive experience in state finance. During that time, Huckaby was responsible for overseeing the state budget on behalf of the governor. He also served as the interim chief financial officer for then Gov. Sonny Perdue during Perdue’s transition period.
After earning an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Young Harris College, Huckaby pursued his education at Georgia State University earning both a bachelor’s degree in political science and an M.B.A. in international business. He continued his education through additional graduate studies at the University of Georgia.
His commitment to public service during his career led to Huckaby being tapped on two occasions to head other key state agencies. From 1977 to 1980, he was commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and from 1980 to 1991, he was the executive director of the Georgia Residential Finance Authority. During his tenure at both agencies, Huckaby was elected by his peers to serve as president of their respective national organizations.
Huckaby was sworn in this past January to represent Georgia House District 113 as a Republican. His legislative experience also includes a stint as the director of the Georgia State Senate Research Office from 1975-77.
Huckaby said he knew KSU's first president, Dr. Horace Sturgis, and remembers when the college first began in the mid-1960s. Huckaby is touring all USG campuses to take a look at measures to cut costs while enhancing students' educations. He also toured Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta today. The University System of Georgia oversees 35 colleges and universities in the state.
"We're looking at how to do education more efficiently and effectively, and we want to make sure our students have every opportunity we can provide," said Huckaby, who said he met with Papp to discuss many issues regarding the Kennesaw campus—including the fact that it is landlocked and needs more land to grow.
He said the original founders of the school 50 years ago probably never could have imagined the dynamic growth that would occur. "They (current administration) have identified land acquisitions, but the last thing we need to do is talk about real estate transactions right now." KSU is the third-largest university in Georgia, with more than 24,100 students.
Huckaby said the economic downturn in Georgia has hit the University System and its students hard. "Budget cuts have put a crimp in the plans of the University System, but I'm cautiously optimistic that our 2013 budget will be funded," said Huckaby, adding the General Assembly did not approve the System's proposed budget at last year's session.
Answering questions from KSU students at the event, Huckaby talked about the decrease in funding of the HOPE scholarship and how that has impacted the enrollments of Georgia's colleges and universities. He said one major concern of his is the growing student debt to pay for their education. "This is an issue we must give attention to," said Huckaby, adding he is looking into a program that offers a one-percent loan to students.
He ended his comments by applauding the administration and staff of KSU. "I'm not surprised things are going well here," said Huckaby, adding he has known Papp for many years. "But it's not yet what it should be in order to meet the needs of a growing student population."