SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A recent bill tried to consolidate three historically black colleges and universities - Albany State , Fort Valley, and Savannah State.
The lawmakers who created the plan didn’t want that. They were pushing to put these three under their own Board of Trustees and not under the Georgia State Board of Regents.
After backlash, Senator Lester Jackson from Savannah revised the bill, taking away the consolidation. WTOC is following up with Savannah State University. We’ve found out no one from the school was included in conversations about a merger.
The idea of these three HBCU’s merging, including Savannah State University, has been taken off the table for now, but not without completely shocking locals in Savannah who had no idea.
Five of the six authors of Senate Bill 273 have changed their support. The senators from across the state completely took their signatures off of the legislation after learning it would force the three separate universities into the Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical University System. Dr. Amir Toure says that would threaten the identity of these three Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Savannah State.
“Each one plays a vital role with regards to education in the state of Georgia. Each one has its particular niche, and we need all three of them; not one, not two, all three of them,” Dr. Toure said.
Savannah State University put out a statement Wednesday saying they were not consulted on this legislation.
‘We were unaware of the proposal and surprised by it. We support the current structure of Georgia’s higher education system, which serves our students best.'
Now, the new legislation is Senate Bill 278, and it says the universities will not merge and lawmakers will look for feedback from alumni and stakeholders before the new bill becomes law.
“Folks used to say ‘do you go to the college?’ When they said ‘college,’ they were talking about Savannah State. I looked at them with pride and said ‘Yeah, I go to the college."
Dr. Toure is not only a professor at Savannah State, but also a proud alumni. He does not want to see Savannah lose Savannah State in any capacity.
“That’s what Savannah State represents to this community. It’s a part of it. It is Savannah," he said.
We did not find any students at Savannah State Wednesday who were willing to talk on camera, but the majority of them say they were not interested in consolidating now or in the future.
Senator Jackson says Senate Bill 278 is just a proposal at the moment. We’re told the Urban Affairs Committee will most likely have a hearing this summer about the proposed bill.
If approved, changes would be made in 2023.