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GSU planning business incubator here

GSU, Armstrong heading to Jan. 1 merger

POSTED: October 1, 2017 1:00 p.m.
Tiffany King/

Jaimie Hebert, president of Georgia Southern University, talks about the merger between GSU and Armstrong State University at an Eggs and Issues breakfast Wednesday.

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It will be a beginning for Georgia Southern University in January as the merge of Armstrong State University into GSU reaches its final stages.

Jaimie Hebert, president of Georgia Southern, and Jennifer Frum, interim president of Armstrong, addressed gathered business and local leaders about the consolidation at an Eggs and Issue Breakfast Wednesday.

Frum, who became interim June 5, said she was especially proud of Armstrong’s presence in Hinesville.

“We work to ensure that through consolidation we will increase academic opportunities and options for students in this region,” she said. “We’ve been especially focused on developing in Savannah and at the Liberty Campus a set of academic programs connected to workforce and economic development. Over the next decade 60 percent of the jobs in Georgia will require some level of college.

Currently only 47 percent of our workforce statewide meets this requirement.”

Frum said she believes the consolidation will provide the region with “a major comprehensive university” connecting academic and research programs to economic development.

Frum said the Liberty Center is “right on track.” As of Tuesday, 508 students were enrolled at the Liberty Center, an increase of 17 percent from last year and an increase of 67 percent since 2009, Frum said.

Twenty six of those enrolled are Move On When Ready high school students, 211 are military or military affiliated and 165 are pursuing associate’s of science degrees for nursing. Biology, early childhood education and criminal justice are the top three majors.

The consolidation is only the beginning, Hebert said. Plans for the new GSU include putting student success, access and increased educational opportunities first. Three colleges will be moved to the Armstrong campus in Savannah and the Liberty Center will have more courses.

Hebert said the university will still face harsh realities such as the rising cost of tuition, enrollment declines and falling completion rates.

“We must be diligent in this implementation phase of the consolidation to establish a responsible tuition and fee model for this new university. College enrollments across the country are also in multi-year decline which means that university likes ours are competing for fewer and fewer students,” Hebert said. “College completion rates across the country are also in decline. In 2016 a study found that just over half, 54 percent, of students who start any kind of post-secondary education actually complete their degree in six years. The new Georgia Southern must face all those types of issues head-on.”

He said the university will have an economic impact of more than $1 billion in the region through the merger.

“That type of impact will allow us to serve as the intellectual catalyst to drive innovation and growth in our regional businesses,” Hebert said.

Hebert promised the Liberty Center will continue to expand. Pending approval from the University Systems of Georgia, three degree programs will be offered at the Liberty Center next fall, designed for military and veteran needs, he said. They are forensic science, homeland security and emergency management and social work.

GSU’s business innovation group is working with the city and Hinesville Development Authority to construct a new business incubator near the campus.

“This $1 million facility is slated to be operational by early 2019. It will house more than 12 local businesses. These business owners will be connected to industry, faculty experts, class projects to assist in various stages of their businesses and student interns to get hands-on training in starting up businesses,” Hebert said.

The business incubator will also connect to GSU’s Veteran Business Outreach Center in Statesboro, where transitioning service members get help starting new businesses.

“We’re determined to make Georgia Southern an essential educational resource for Southeast Georgia,” he said. “I’m excited about our future, but I realize it’s going to take a lot of hard work, a whole lot of vision to get us there.”

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