- The merger of Darton State College with Albany State University is officially underway in Georgia, which has aggressively sought consolidation in its university system in recent years.
- The most recent combining of Darton State College with Albany State University is the seventh merger within Georgia's university system, but marks the first time a school with a majority-white population was folded into an historically black institution.
- To reflect the change, the board of regents in March approved a new mission statement for Albany State, which replaced the historically black designation with language that references "the historical roots of its institutional predecessors."
Georgia has aggressively stood at the forefront of states' efforts to merge institutions, a position that has been praised by some and criticized by many. There is a lot of talk in several states about the legality of continuing the historically black institutions. Is allowing the HBCU designation maintaining a segregated system of higher education or simply preserving institutional culture for a group that has historically struggled to find total acceptance on majority campuses?
Different states are taking different approaches to addressing this question. In Maryland, University of Maryland System Chancellor Robert Caret recently told an intimate group of reporters gathered at a TIAA Institute meeting that historically black institutions in the state must prepare for new population realities, particularly the rise of Hispanic students in the area, and accept they might have to update their missions as well. But in West Virginia, the state has respectfully continued to acknowledge the mission of Bluefield State College as an historically black institution, despite its now-majority white population.
After tremendous outcry from alumni, the newly merged Albany State University added "guiding principles" to its mission page, which acknowledge the historically black designation, and a note saying the page's content may change. States would do well to consider alumni response and how any major changes to institutional mission statements may affect alumni giving and community relationships, things to be considered even when making changes outside of merger situations.