Understanding the resistance of community leaders to the mergers of technical colleges in Georgia
Newcomb, Ronald Charles
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For the purpose of saving costs, the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) in 2008 announced and began a plan to reduce its total number of colleges from 33 to 26 through a series of mergers. As soon as the plan became public, however, it ran into resistance from leaders in some of the communities where the colleges were located. Although the kinds of factors which might have triggered such resistance can be surmised from the literature on mergers or from organizational change theory, the specific factors most at work in this set of TCSG mergers were unknown. The purpose of my study, therefore, is to explore, understand, and describe the perspectives of community leaders who resisted the mergers. The study was a qualitative case study bounded as a single case by the dynamic between TCSG’s merger plan and the resistance of community leaders. It used purposeful sampling to identify mergers and community leaders, gathered data through face-to-face interviews and document archives, and used interpretive analysis to identify themes leading to naturalistic generalizations. At all stages in the study, trustworthiness was a constant concern. The study found that community leaders believed the mergers originated with the Governor, they rejected TCSG’s cost-savings rationale, and they would have preferred a rationale with a vision even if cost savings or a reduction in the number of schools were a side effect. They felt that the plan overlooked differences of fit between the merging communities, they felt as though it overlooked an interdependence between community and college, and of great importance, they felt as though a sense of community ownership of the college was violated thus creating the sense of a loss by a taking. Community leaders expressed their opposition primarily through local and state networks of contacts and avoided public demonstrations. They felt as though their efforts were ineffective, that they were unable to gain a voice with state leaders, and that the mergers were a fait accompli from the start.