Ga. black colleges merger idea stirs resistance

ATLANTA (AP) -- Public colleges created during the segregation era to provide blacks with an education are at the center of a budget battle in Georgia.

A Republican state senator has proposed merging two of the historically black schools with nearby predominantly white colleges to save money. He says the mergers would erase a vestige of the Jim Crow era.

The plan offered by Senator Seth Harp, chairman of the state Senate's Higher Education Committee, has stirred a torrent of opposition. Critics of the plan say students who might otherwise not attend college are being educated at the schools.

And some experts say black students perform better in a black-college setting.

The schools were mostly founded before 1964, generally in the South. But they are open to people of all races and experts say the number of white students at the campuses has been on the rise.

Harp's proposal would merge the historically black 3,400-student Savannah State University with Armstrong Atlantic State University. Albany State University, which has about 4,100 enrolled, would combine with nearby Darton College, which also has a predominantly white student body. The new campuses would keep the names of the older and more established black colleges.

Harp's plan is preliminary with few details about how the mergers would work

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