SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Back in the fall of 1980, I enrolled at The Ohio State University. I was one of nearly 60,000 students on the sprawling Columbus, OH campus.
I recall a freshman math class with more than 300 students in it. As it turned out, I was not cut out to be educated at such a large school. Ultimately, I would complete my post-secondary education at a smaller more urban school. A decision that was right for me, but a decision high school seniors in our area soon won't have thanks to the Georgia Board of Regents.
This week, the board is expected to approve a merger between Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University. Two fine institutions, but two schools that serve completely different purposes. Armstrong, since its beginning in 1935, has always stood as the alternative to the big schools, offering smaller class sizes, hands-on instruction and a sense of pride that can sometimes get lost on larger campuses.
Armstrong has always maintained a special culture that's been tied to Savannah, but its declining enrollment numbers and rising costs have made it an endangered species, along with several other universities in the Georgia system. The proposed merger just isn't about changing a name either. It's about economies of scale that will likely force classes offered at each of the campuses to change, forcing the students to change with it.
Consider this: to call this a merger is incorrect. It's more of a takeover, only this time it is the Pirates of Armstrong that are being robbed -- of its name, its heritage and its culture that makes it uniquely Savannah. A cost that is clearly greater than the savings this merger may produce.
A couple of years ago when Armstrong dropped Atlantic from its name, people were not happy. I'm not sure what will happen when they lose Armstrong as well.