Kennesaw State to absorb Southern Polytechnic in big merger
by Rachel Gray
November 01, 2013 03:00 AM | 53976 views | 132 132 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Southern Polytechnic State University President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, addresses a gathering of students, faculty and staff on the commons area outside Joe Mack Wilson Student Center Friday to announce that SPSU would be merging with Kennesaw State University. Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Southern Polytechnic State University President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, addresses a gathering of students, faculty and staff on the commons area outside Joe Mack Wilson Student Center Friday to announce that SPSU would be merging with Kennesaw State University. Staff/Kelly J. Huff
SPSU - KSU Merger
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MARIETTA — Students of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University will unite under one school banner if a proposed merger of the two universities is approved by the state Board of Regents.

On Friday, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said he will ask the Board of Regents to approve the plan for consolidation in a couple of weeks. If approved, the merger would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Huckaby said he will form an implementation team with representatives from both institutions to work out the details and submit the documents required for accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges.

The State Board of Regents merged eight Georgia colleges into four in January in an effort to reduce administrative costs and relieve some of the burden on state funding of higher education.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on higher education, said Huckaby has a good track record with merger decisions and there has already been a positive impact on the state’s budget.

“We had to get a handle on this,” said Ehrhart, whose northwest Cobb district is near both campuses.

None of the mergers have been in the metro Atlanta area, until now. KSU is in unincorporated Cobb County near Kennesaw off Interstate 75. Ten miles away is SPSU in Marietta south of the 120 Loop.

Ehrhart said other schools in metro Atlanta that meet the guidelines for consolidation should be merged to cut down on inefficiencies.

“I don’t think we are at the end of this yet,” Ehrhart said. “Students suffer when steps aren’t taken to move forward.”

Kennesaw State University, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in October, is the third-largest university in the University System of Georgia.

The fall 2013 enrollment of KSU and SPSU combined would be 31,178 students, just shy of Georgia State University’s 32,087 enrollment number.

“This proposal offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions,” Huckaby said.

Southern Polytechnic State University, founded 65 years ago with a move to Cobb County in 1961, embraces the practical application of science, engineering and technology.

Over the past six years, Southern Polytechnic’s enrollment has increased 36 percent, an increase of 4,460 students. Enrollment now stands at slightly above 6,500.

In October 2011, SPSU President Lisa Rossbacher told the MDJ that she saw no advantage in a KSU and SPSU merger and that Cobb benefits greatly by having two separate public universities.

KSU has focused on nursing, business, information systems, and education programs and offers twice the amount of graduate degrees as SPSU.

Betty Siegel, who was president of KSU from 1981 to 2006, said the possibility of the merger was discussed during her tenure at the university and that she “applauds the decision.”

KSU President Dan Papp will serve as president of the consolidated university.

“The message to all the students, faculty and staff is that SPSU is an excellent institution,” Papp said.

Papp, who was the interim president of SPSU from 1997-1998, added that most, if not all, of the degree programs offered by SPSU will remain and the high quality of the SPSU education will continue.

Millions in savings expected

The annual impact on the region by the two universities is $1.15 billion, according to John Millsaps, spokesman for the University System of Georgia.

Millsaps said the focus of the merger is to find the best way to serve college students in Georgia and that savings from the consolidation would be redirected into further approving the academic programs.

Millsaps said there are no projections on the money that will be saved in the latest merger, but savings from the previous eight merged colleges range from $5 million to $7 million.

Papp said he expects the savings to be in the millions of dollars since the merger of KSU an SPSU is larger than any of the previous college mergers in Georgia.

Job cuts coming, but no word on numbers

There has been no determination on what positions between the two schools would be repetitive and therefore eliminated, Millsaps said.

When asked for a percentage of the staff and faculty of both KSU and SPSU who are likely to be laid off, Millsaps said, “That is a question that at this point is too early to say anything about.”

Papp said there will be cuts to office staff to reduce administrative overhead.

“We will be looking at all positions and will handle any cuts with the greatest sensitivity possible,” Papp said.

Roger Tutterow, a professor of economics at Mercer University who also taught at KSU from 1991 to 2005, said the merger is a necessary step to get control of education costs.

If the two universities are serving the same market, it is not justifiable to remain independent, Tutterow said.

Tutterow said he has not seen an analysis of the savings and said there is a great challenge ahead to combine both schools’ financial and registrar systems.

In the long-run, Tutterow said the consolidated school will be stronger by offering a broad range of programs without raising costs.

The costs would be higher if the two schools spent money to broaden their degree programs independently, instead of combining to share the load, Tutterow said.

Southern Polytechnic State University history

  • In 1948 founded as a two-year division of Georgia Institute of Technology in Chamblee, Georgia
  • In 1949 became the Southern Technical Institute and recognized as a college-level school by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • In 1961 moved to Marietta, Georgia with eight buildings on 120 acres of land (SPSU campus now encompasses more than 203 acres and contains 65 buildings)
  • In 1970 became accredited as a four-year college and separated ties with Georgia Tech by 1980
  • In 1987 became Southern College of Technology
  • In 1996 became Southern Polytechnic State University

Enrollment numbers for fall 2013

Kennesaw State University

24,629 students – 22,670 undergraduate, 1959 graduate, 22 doctoral

Southern Polytechnic State University

6,550 students - 5,729 undergraduate, 821 graduate

Steps for approval

  1. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia must approve the consolidation plan during the November 12 and 13 meetings.
  2. The board of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) must approve the plan in December 2014.
  3. The Board of Regents approves the new institution in January 2015.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
Tre T
January 11, 2014
What's it with the SPSU people and their superiority complex? It's as if the school is on par with MIT or Cal-tech....not even! SPSU has a 79% freshman acceptance rate versus KSU's 54%. In most College Review publications e.g. US News, Princeton Review,SPSU is ranked well below KSU. Get the head out the clouds. Wake up and smell the coffee. Merger is a good thing.
jan jan
November 04, 2013
Many of you are worried about an engineering degree from a liberal arts college ---- Well, look at Harvey Mudd -- a top ranked university that specializes in liberal art with engineering. ( "Mudd offers nine engineering, science and mathematics-based majors, all grounded in a solid core curriculum that includes a healthy dose of humanities and social science courses. Why? Because we know that you don't have to sacrifice your interest in music or art (or anything else) to be good scientists. And because an understanding of history and politics will make us more effective engineers, chemists, lawyers, doctors and human beings."

If you need an example closer to home -- Mercer University has liberal arts and engineering degrees -- and UGA is expanding its engineering college.

Consulting Engineer
November 04, 2013
KSU Faculty Member

I don't know how familiar you are with SPSU, it's respect in the industrial and business communities and the level of difficulty in attaining a degree from that institution. But there are some things about the school you should know.

Southern Tech (SPSU) was part of Georgia Tech for the first thirty two years of its existence. It did not flourish under GT's domination. GT knew they had to do something with their stepchild, either welcome it into the fold completely or give up the school it's independence. GT was one signature and just a few days away from creating Georgia Tech Marietta Campus.

The entire Southern Tech community rallied around the effort to stop absorption by GT. We won that battle and ST became an independent unit of the USG in 1980.

That same fervor and intensity are rising again to fight any merger.

The supporters of SPSU are concerned about several thing relative to a merger. Our history and identity will be lost. Beginning with the liberals arts courses required for an engineering degree, their rigor will be watered down versus what they are now. This is from personal experience with four USG schools, both engineering and liberal arts. This, in turn, will lessen the value of an engineering degree from KSU. As in any government endeavor, the lowest common denominator will be found.

Having been involved in engineering for fifty years, having hired scores of engineers from numerous prestigious universities, I would put an SPSU graduate up against any of the others.

Should the merger take place, I will not support KSU in any form. In addition, I will not be employing any engineers with a degree from KSU.

I suggest you read the History of Southern Tech by Bennett. You will become enlightened.
Former SPSU Student
November 04, 2013
SPSU is a leader in the country in awarding Engineering Degrees to African Americans, Women and Vets.

Do the math... Cobb County and State of Georgia dollars at work as usual.

However, a fair share of the blame should be placed on a weak minded President at SPSU, as well as on staff and professors who have their heads in the sand about SPSU's standing in Cobb. They should have left years ago, or worked harder to built adjunct partnerships & campuses outside of Cobb County.

SPSU is too dependent on a political environment that doesn't support the school's goals. This is plain suicide.
Current SPSU student
November 03, 2013
I chose SPSU for a degree in computer game design and development. It's been awhile since I was in high school let alone college and I studied hard to gain entrance into this college when I had to retake my math test. I didn't want to go to any other college because this college is unique, the professors give students great time for questions and concerns let alone the size of the classrooms are perfect. I've always done research where I go, whether be work or schooling and I chose my first college out of the statistics and what it had that other colleges didn't. SPSU will not be SPSU if/when it merges because KSU will dissolve what we have. The degrees that the current students are pursuing will mean nothing because the college they went to is not a technical college, the courses won't be as challenging, and we won't get the needed help when we need it. It'll be more of nothing short of "Oh, I see you went to college for this type of degree" from a recruiter and they won't take us seriously. If your goal is to drive off more students than bringing them in, then by all means, merge the 2 colleges, sacrifice the quality of both, and lose the well earned recognition both already have. While you're at it, merge all the colleges together, like Clayton State University, Georgia Tech, and how about a generic community college into one giant campus. I'm sure you'll have really happy people. Can't even image the commute for some courses out of that idea. I'm not bashing KSU for anything because I know they have great programs but they don't have what we have. We're a technology/engineering school, KSU is liberal arts. Keep them separate so that both can excel and keep their standards up. If a merger has to happen, put SPSU back with GA where we were to begin with.....
Amy Graham
November 04, 2013
I completely agree. Merging the two schools will lose the quality and recognition they both have. It's like trying to merge an apple and an orange and expecting it to work. Some people choose apples. Some people choose oranges. The Board of Regents is just using this as a bandaid solution to fix what is really a larger financial issue. The students from both schools are outraged over this, and they have every right to be.
November 03, 2013
According to

Total Salaries for the Board of Regents w/ travel included.

28,082,318.72 (Chancellor 497,000.04)

Total Payments Made to companies by the Board of Regents


Professional Services:


Total Obligations by the board of Regents


KSU Faculty Member
November 03, 2013
While it is understandable that SPSU students, faculty, and staff might dislike the idea of the merger, it is not wise to advance this argument by attacking KSU and suggesting that KSU, its faculty, its students, and alumni are dramatically academically inferior to Southern Poly.

First, it is simply not fair to suggest KSU exclusively offers a watered-down, “soft” liberal arts curriculum. KSU has a number of undergraduate and professional programs that are nationally ranked (e.g., First-Year Programs (Top Ten, U.S. News) and Coles College of Business (Top 20 program, Businessweek)). Programs within WellStar College of Nursing and Bagwell College of Education are among the most highly-regarded in the state and region. We have been on U.S. News’ “Top Ten” listing of “Up-and-Coming” universities in the American South for several years.

Second, SPSU faculty and staff members making negative comments about KSU should, perhaps, consider that their subjective dissatisfaction is unlikely to sway the USG Board of Regents. As a result, they will likely be on faculty committees, etc., with KSU faculty in the near future. While KSU also has a supportive and engaged faculty community, unfair comments attacking KSU's academics and students are going to be difficult to overlook – we’re very proud of our students and programs, too.

Third, the mean SAT score of students entering Southern Poly - while respectable - does not suggest that the majority of SPSU students are/were viable candidates for GT, yet chose SPSU. Similarly, an examination of SPSU faculty qualifications does not suggest that the “average” SPSU faculty member would be teaching at GT save for the allure of working with SPSU students. Simply put, SPSU is not GT. GT is an internationally-ranked research university and SPSU is not. KSU is not Georgia or Emory, either, and that’s just fine. Both our institutions fulfill a specific purpose for Georgia - and it isn't solely to serve as a "safety school" for Georgia’s research-intensive institutions of higher education. We prepare a large number of our state’s professionals, and offer an alternative to students who cannot go or do not wish to attend GT or UGA. Again, neither of us is GT or UGA. Those unhappy SPSU commenters who suggest that they will transfer to Tech instead of becoming part of KSU should, by all means, go immediately – they will receive an internationally outstanding education. Similarly, any SPSU faculty member who believes he or she has credentials and interests that are better suited to Tech than KSU should make efforts to pursue faculty vacancies downtown. I have no doubt they will find the experience professionally fulfilling and rewarding. While we look forward to welcoming Southern Poly’s faculty, students, and staff who want to be part of building something new, quite frankly, we probably do not want faculty and students who believe KSU – and the students it serves – is “beneath” them.

Fourth, a significant amount of potential opportunity accompanies this merger. I can see some very interesting intra-disciplinary opportunities emerging, such as between Poly's computer game design and development program and KSU's programs in instructional technology. We’re both very dynamic and innovative schools that can often move to opportunities more nimbly than “research universities.” While this merger will undoubtedly have challenges, I look forward to the possibilities that will come from integrating the many, many strengths of both institutions. The whole will likely be far more than the sum of its parts.

In summary, I know that this is probably very difficult to accept – you truly have my sympathy. It is perhaps understandable that you might wish to employ any weapons in your arsenal to prevent what is likely inevitable from occurring. However, with respect, your argument that SPSU is an academically superior institution to KSU, its faculty, students, and alumni is unlikely to get traction anywhere beyond your campus, and more likely to erode sympathy for your cause.

David Miller
November 05, 2013
It's not that SPSU is academically superior. It's that, for those of us in the kind of fields that SPSU offers, there's nothing that KSU brings to the table that we want/need. And, in those fields, the KSU name offers NOTHING to employers, while a degree from SPSU DOES. I'm among those who are going to be forced to explain to potential employers why I have an engineering degree from a school that has never been heard of in relation to the STEM fields, and have to work even harder to prove that degree is worth something.
November 02, 2013
What would happen to the tuition for the students? I don't like necessarily like this.
Scott S.
November 02, 2013
SPSU. Dunning–Kruger effect.
An SPSU Student
November 02, 2013
I understand the reasoning behind the state wanting to do this merger--because we all know they would love to cut corners and costs so they don't have to fund education. But it's an entirely one-sided merger. KSU gets to keep the name, their president, basically everything and they gain an entire technology and engineering school. SPSU gets nothing. KSU name recognition may as well amount to nothing in the tech world, and no SPSU student is looking for a liberal arts degree.

I used to be an English major and was considering going to KSU. The better reasoning of my brain, however, told me that the way of the future is being lead by STEM fields. KSU has nothing to do with technology based degrees--I can see why they want to become a part of those fields, but at the expense of absorbing an entire university? We'll become exiles on our own campus with no tech in our name.

And really? People going on about how SPSU will get more women on campus and more sports teams? SPSU doesn't have as many women enrolled because that is simply the nature of the technical school. If it was a business or liberal arts school like KSU then it would be a different story. Merging the two will not increase the female demographic on SPSU's campus. And I don't even care to talk about getting a football team or whatever else.

I'd also like to point out that the diversity on both campuses is a non-issue. Who really cares?
November 02, 2013
I believe, that if SPSU and KSU merge, it will not be a bad thing IF it gains ABET accreditation. ABET accreditation is required to obtain a PE without jumping through many hoops. IF the SPSU grads from this year in the majors which require accreditation and it transfers in the merger, I see nothing wrong with a merger. Also make it a research institute and we have a major player. Bring the SPSU teachers with the game as well. Otherwise, it is a pointless venture.
SPSU alum, grad stu.
November 02, 2013
It's difficult to predict the impact of the merger, but given the written English skills displayed here by some of my fellow students, we may need a little assistance from KSU.

Once in KSU's hands, though, I hope the technology programs are not put on a starvation diet and forced into decline. In the WABE interview, Dan Papp was vague about plans for SPSU programs going forward. Technology - wherever it is found - in industry, government, and maybe a university system - is often cut for short term savings while ignoring strategic implications. Seems to be the nature of the business.
November 02, 2013
No, no, no. As a KSU alumni I say that this is wrong. Merging KSU and SPSU is a move that will completely bone the engineering students at SPSU by watering down their degrees from a known liberal arts university. This nation has a real dearth of educated engineers and this will do nothing but push those students to the edges of their fields.
November 02, 2013
Clearly KSU ain't no charm school either.
bran bran
November 02, 2013
We should look at cutting the expenses of the administration above the Individual Universities. There have been conservative guesses as to how much it cost to operate these services. The best guess is 250,000,000 - 500,000,000

Accoring to

Michael Adams President of UGA makes 678,317.45

Huckaby, Henry Chancellor makes 497,000,71

Susan Herbst Vice Chancellor makes 377,334.86

Curtis Arver, Vice Chancellor makes 234,999.96

This is the tip of the iceberg. Many services these vice chancellors provide is duplicated by the services many universities provide.

Each School has a Dean of Student affairs.

They have a Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Its Time to eliminate duplication on the Regions level. If they can make cuts that hurt the students, They should be able to make cuts that hurt themselves. I ask the Governor to convene a special investigation in to the USG.

Stephanie Ray
November 02, 2013
SPSU students do NOT want to merge. Even though KSU may have a better known name to the general public, those who are looking to hire people in engineering, technology, etc. are very well acquainted with the name SPSU. Our reputations as students in this area will be lost if we are absorbed by a liberal arts school. SPSU students will suffer greatly from this merge.
November 02, 2013
The ignorance here is hilarious. To everyone here saying that SPSU is unknown I would ask when the last time you found yourself in an engineering setting in the Southeast was. I can't count how many times I have been told that SPSU grads are the preferred choice, especially over Georgia Tech and even more so in manufacturing settings.

The architecture program at spsu absolutely blows GT out of the water and is well known in the architecture world.

The surveying and mapping program is known second to none here.

Our competition teams are routinely top competitors (do some research on the formula sae team for starters)

The only areas we don't place high on are the espn highlight reels and the list of "top party schools"..... Although our football team is undefeated haha.

Spsu is a great school and is in fact well known in the Southeast (despite what others would have you believe) I fear the value of an education from here will be lost in this take-over errr... I mean merge.

not good
November 02, 2013
Terrible idea. Hope it doesn't happen. What is happening seems to be just to lump everyone in together, sort of like Common Core. Hope SPSU fights it.

November 02, 2013
"Over the past six years, Southern Polytechnic’s enrollment has increased 36 percent, an increase of 4,460 students. Enrollment now stands at slightly above 6,500."

Must have been a KSU student who wrote this sentence.

That would be a 218% increase


Caric Martin
November 02, 2013
I see many possibilities:

SPSU teaches robotics, KSU produces teachers, can some of those teachers learn robotics and then teach the subject in middle and high schools?

Any "high tech" devices in medicine? KSU produces nurses that might need advanced trianing and understanding of technology.

SPSU teaches logisitics and mechanical engineering, any KSU business studentz need to learn those disciplines?

Paulding County Economic Developemnt has an emphasis on bring aerospace jobs to the county. Can SPSU teach advance engineering concepts at the KSU facility in Dallas to help train managers or current engineers?

Can a KSU Art major benefit from learning textile technology SPSU?

This is all about making our state competitive in the 21st Century. Less leave the past behind and work towards a better future.
November 02, 2013
@ 2010 Alumni,

Seeing as how KSU does not have architecture or engineering, of course SPSU is going to have better degrees for those.

As someone who has attended both SPSU (two years architecture) and KSU (Finance degree, and now working on Accounting, and several computer classes as electives), I can tell you that SPSU have very good engineering and construction degrees, and had a very good architecture program until about 2006. But other than that, KSU is much better school academically.

And no, SPSU is not really known out of the area, but KSU certainly is.

Personally, I am upset about the merger. It will bring down the reputation of KSU. Dan Papp is already doing enough stuff to hurt KSU, we don't need this.
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