“So, what kind of questions make me cringe?
“‘Will my courses at SPSU transfer to Georgia Tech?’”
“This question generally means that a student wants to attend SPSU for a couple of year, pick up the core — general education — requirements, and then complete a degree from Georgia Tech. Before a few years ago, students who wanted to major in civil, electrical or mechanical engineering in the USG had to go to Georgia Tech.
“But in 2009, SPSU was approved to offer those degrees. We worked with Georgia Tech to develop the proposal, so that the programs would be complementary, and not competitive. We did a market study that demonstrated an unmet demand for engineering education in the metro Atlanta area, specifically targeted at non-traditional students (probably employed full time) who are interested in a part-time program offered in the evening and on weekends. Georgia Tech serves full-time, daytime, traditional students. SPSU meets a demonstrated need. Our evening engineering programs represent a significant part of our enrollment growth this fall.
“For example, the number of students majoring in civil engineering is up 25 percent this fall compared to last fall. Enrollment in electrical engineering is up 41 percent this fall, and mechanical engineering is up 62 percent.
“Far fewer students come to SPSU now planning to transfer to Georgia Tech. Southern Polytechnic is, increasingly, a first-choice school — and that’s our goal. And the number of students transferring from Georgia Tech to SPSU is significantly larger than the numbers who leave SPSU to go downtown.
“One of SPSU’s admissions recruiters got an interesting version of this question at a college fair last week. A high school senior asked, ‘Will courses taken at one USG institution transfer to another?’ The recruiter cautiously answered, ‘Yes.’ And the student said, ‘Good. I plan to go to UGA to get my core classes out of the way, and then transfer to SPSU for my engineering degree.’ With apologies to you Dawgs out there, that’s good news about SPSU’s growing reputation.
“And the final question that makes me wince, ‘When is SPSU starting a football program?’
“Not anytime soon, for a couple of reasons: Money and demographics. We can’t afford it. SPSU is one of only two USG institutions that don’t offer any physical education classes. Our athletics programs are funded entirely by student fees and adding football would drive this fee up dramatically.
“Although SPSU has been co-ed since the day it opened, we still only have about 21-percent women students. This percentage is consistent with the representation of women in engineering and computer science, but it is way out of whack with the overall college-going population.
“In the last decade, a number of schools have been concerned about ways to recruit more men students, and some of them have been quite open about starting football programs in order to attract more men. That’s not what SPSU needs right now. Our next two sports will be women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, followed by men’s and women’s track and cross-country. We can afford to support those sports from student athletics fees, and they should help us recruit more women. So — we’re not going to be adding football anytime soon.
Concluded Dr. Rossbacher:
“Southern Polytechnic is growing. Our students get strong educations that focus on how to apply knowledge to find practical, creative, and sustainable solutions to the issues that face society. Our graduates get jobs and contribute to the economy of the region.
“We value our partnerships with the educational, business and civic communities in this area.
“We are grateful for the support that the community gives us.
“And we are grateful to the Marietta Kiwanis Club — without you, SPSU wouldn’t be here.”
The Club’s Business & Public Affairs Committee sponsored the school’s move from Chamblee to Marietta five decades ago. This columnist was proud to serve as chairman of that committee.
Bill Kinney is associate editor of The Marietta Daily Journal.