Regents rename Augusta university, request more money to operate

The state Board of Regents voted unanimously Tuesday to change the name of Georgia Regents University to Augusta University, after the name caused years of consternation in Augusta.

The Regents consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities and named the new institution Georgia Regents in 2012. Students and area residents wanting to retain the city of Augusta name in the university name staunchly protested and began a “Save the A” campaign.

Regent University in Virginia also challenged the GRU name, saying it had trademarked the “Regent” name.

Residents had prodded GRU’s new president Brooks Keel to restore the Augusta name since he took over the university in July.

The name change is “an affirmation that Augusta is important to this university,” Keel said after Tuesday’s vote. “We really can’t be successful without support of the community. I’m excited about the hope that this will allow the entire Jaguar nation to come together as one.”

A news release for the University System said the name change would be effective immediately, but Keel told reporters the transition will take some time and planning. “The Health System,” which manages the medical services associated with the school, “is a separate board and we will be working with them on this issue in the coming days.”

Reaction to Tuesday’s vote was immediate with social media messages of support for the new name from the community, along with students and parents posting questions about the name on their diplomas and the costs of changing the university name.

The university reportedly budgeted $3.8 million to replace all of the previous signs when the consolidated GRU was created three years ago. Keels said it was too early to estimate the name-change costs this time. University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby said Augusta civic leaders have pledged to raise money to cover the costs.

The Board of Regents also recommended Tuesday asking state lawmakers to increase funding for the University System by about $55 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

The fiscal 2017 funding plan recommends about $2.1 billion in state funding, about a 2.7 percent more than the current year’s state funding. Most of the requested increase comes from an enrollment increase at about half of the system’s 30 schools, and it would also cover increases in health care and retirement costs and maintenance and operations costs for new facilities.

The recommendation also includes funding for construction projects including $47 million to renovate Crosland Tower and Price Gilbert Library at Georgia Tech, $29 million for a convocation center at the University of North Georgia and $22 million for a health professions building at Armstrong State University.

The system’s budget recommendation now moves to Gov. Nathan Deal for consideration.