“This proposal offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions,” said System Chancellor Hank Huckaby.
The merger is being touted as a way to save millions of dollars through efficiencies and economies of scale, although Regents and other spokesmen have been frustratingly vague thus far on specifics. Neither has much information been forthcoming about which or how many jobs would be affected.
KSU is the third-largest school in the University System of Georgia already with 25,000 students, and the addition of SPSU’s 6,500 students would bring its enrollment to roughly 31,000. The resulting school would be known as Kennesaw State University and would be headed by highly regarded current KSU President Dr. Dan Papp. The fate of SPSU President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher is unclear at this point, but if the merger goes forward it is hoped the Regents would find a fitting and high-profile role for her in light of the transformational leadership she has displayed at her school during her 15-year tenure there.
The Regents are in the midst of combining schools to reduce administrative and other costs and has already merged eight colleges into four since January.
“We had to get a handle on this,” said state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on higher education. “I don’t think we are at the end of this yet. Students suffer when steps aren’t taken to move forward.”
Mercer University (and former KSU) economics professor Dr. Roger Tutterow says if two universities are serving the same market, it is not justifiable for them to remain independent. Rather, they would find it more economical to broaden their degree programs jointly.
MOREOVER, the Regents’ handling of the merger announcement has left very much to be desired. Although it was known the Regents were merging schools, Friday’s news came like a proverbial “bolt from the blue” to those at SPSU. The Regents had done next to no groundwork in terms of educating the public and those involved about the possible upside of the merger, even though both schools boast lavishly funded PR departments.
Dr. Rossbacher said afterward that she did not learn of the pending merger until the day before the announcement.
Blindsided SPSU students and staff are angry and wary, and their feelings are easy to understand. SPSU is an engineering school, not a liberal arts college. Its staff and students have an elite mindset and have expressed fears about larger class sizes, higher tuition costs and their own marketability after graduating with diplomas from a non-technical school. They also are upset that the “new” KSU will keep its current colors and mascots, etc., but that SPSU’s will be jettisoned.
It should come as no surprise to the Regents and KSU officials to hear SPSU students describing the merger as “a hostile takeover,” and it’s hard to see why more was not done ahead of time to allay such feelings.
The Regents certainly have the power to make the merger happen, but for it to be successful, both they and KSU officials need to do a better job of building “buy-in” from the SPSU community.
But at this point, the Regents have not only not made their case for the merger, they have barely even tried to do so.
Those on the receiving end of the Regents’ decision deserve better.