Merger Muddle: Regents should have forseen SPSU blowback
November 07, 2013 01:29 AM | 3385 views | 10 10 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOES “BIGGER” MEAN “BETTER”? Yes, according to the state Board of Regents, who also say the expected merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University announced Friday will lead to a broadened curriculum and considerable savings to taxpayers.

“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.

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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.

Comments
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SPSU ALUMNI
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November 20, 2013
There isn't much benefit to combining these two schools. Certain people rise to positions of power and authority and get to do what they want - that's what merging the schools is about. Does anyone believe Georgia State University and Georgia Tech would ever merge? I don't. I have two diplomas from the same school with different names - Southern College of Technology and Southern Polytechnic State University. When asked, I always have to explain that it is the same school only that the name changed during the 1996 Olympics. Now what story will I have to tell?
Just Sayin'....
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November 07, 2013
This is a DONE deal and everyone knows it. The students will grumble, the staff and administration will grumble, but at the end of the day, this will happen. To the reader who suggested that SPSU and KSU are not in the same market, you are mistaken. This is not about Kennesaw or Marietta or any other municipality. This is about economies of scale and hopefully making the course offerings for both student bodies better in the long run.

As for the good president of SPSU, me thinks she doth protest a bit too much. She will end up towing the party line on this very soon, as it is common knowledge she has been shopping herself for another university for quite some time. She will do nothing that a prospective employer will look at with a raised eyebrow. This IS going to happen, so it is best for all concerned to figure out a good way to make it happen.
otter357
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November 09, 2013
"toeing the line", not "towing the line"
Not convinced
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November 11, 2013
I don't get where the Board of Regents is thinking these two schools serve the same market. They do not. Sure,they both are in Cobb County but one is a liberal arts college and the other is an engineering school. I don't think companies looking for engineers will take a candidate too seriously whose diploma says KSU, knowing KSU's history of degree offerings. Would it not be better if Southern Poly was teamed up with Georgia Tech instead. KSU and Georgia Tech are about the same distance from Southern Poly. Also, I read the comment made several days ago that nobody has ever heard of Southern Poly out of the southeastern part of the country. How little you know. My husband attended a convention in Orlando last year at a large hotel on Disney grounds that was hosting 80 or more of the finest engineering schools in the country competing against each other on a very difficult project. Guess who won the competition? Southern Poly did! I think this merger is a horrible idea on many levels and I don't think the Board of Regents understands that. My daughter is an engineer that graduated from Southern Tech and very proud of it. But if the Board goes through with this merger I am going to persuade my grandson who wants to follow in her footsteps to be an engineer not to attend KSU and get a diploma that does not even have engineering in its name.
first sentence wrong
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November 07, 2013
The very first sentence in this editorial shows the lack of thought, indeed, the complete lack of understanding about what this ill-thought-out merger will do. The men and women at SPSU are engineers, they are interested in building for the future. There is no way that this school can really blend in with Kennesaw. And the very idea of this whole scheme is reckless and irresponsible. For some reason the Board of Regents seem to think it would be just jim-dandy to actually do away with SPSU, because this is in reality what they will do. I think the Governor should be brought into this. It simply doesn't make sense.
Andrew Budzinski
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November 07, 2013
They tell us this is a way to save money, but it's not! The previous 8 merges have saved the state a total of about $7.5 million. I agree, that sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to the USG's operating budget, it turns out that that savings only amounts to 0.1%. ONE TENTH OF ONE PERCENT! That was 8 mergers, what do they expect to save from this merger, $1-2 million? Guess what, if they need an extra three million dollars, the could raise tuition at both schools by a whopping $50 per semester...

$3,000,000/30,000 students = $100

$100/ 2 semesters = $50

$50 < the cost of 1 textbook

sources:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/06/secret-merger-now-public-meets-opposition-georgia
lockheed opinion?
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November 07, 2013
What does the crack investigative journalism staff at the MDJ have to report from the only entity that could even potentially stop this merger, Lockheed?

Hmm not one word as of yet.

Why is that?

Otis Junior the Third hasn't yet thought to ask Lockheed, the most critical player?

How about Ga Tech? Did Ga Tech maybe say "no thanks" first before SPSU was given to KSU? Does that explain it? Did Life say "No thanks" too?

OOOOOOOOOOO Tis! Get to WORK!
$68 mil to Greegents
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November 07, 2013
The greedy Regents held the announcement until it was too late for the "print only" Marietta retirees to get the news prior to voting for a City of Marietta taxpayer funder $68 million giveaway to Kennesaw State University.

It worked.

Kennesaw beats Marietta once again.

People talk about how Marietta can't compete with Vinings and Smyrna. That may be true but it is simply due to proximity to the city. Vinings and Smyrna are far less desirable than Marietta if they were to stand on their own, however, they do not stand on their own. People move to Vinings and Smyrna to be closer to downtown Atlanta.

Marietta DOES compete with Kennesaw, though. We are closer to Atlanta than Kennesaw, so people should generally prefer Marietta, so how does Kennesaw keep smacking us in the face?

Kennesaw University would have redeveloped Franklin Rd with their own money, but now we can buy them a shiny new Franklin Rd. You're welcome?

moliere
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November 07, 2013
"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."

That's idiotic. First off, Cobb County is not a city but a county, so it is not the same market. Marietta and Smyrna are a long way from each other and very different communities. Second, the two schools don't serve the same student profile. One is a STEM school, the other a liberal arts school. Third, there are lots of cities with multiple universities, especially if you include branch campuses.

THE ONLY REASON WHY I SUPPORT THIS is because it is the only way to get Ph.D. programs in engineering (and ultimately biology, chemistry, physics and math) to either institution. The regents say that this is being done to build a comprehensive university, then hold their feet to the fire. KSU should at least have the same programs as UAB, because an actual comprehensive university includes well-funded research and doctoral programs.

But if this is just being done because it fits some right wing idea of "smaller government" and "efficiency" and bad economic theories by this "former KSU professor" then it truly is a horrible one. Inside Higher Education reports that merging 8 campuses into 4 had only saved a grand total of $8 million. That's why the regents aren't stating how much this will save: they know that it will be negligible. They aren't doing this to save money now, but as sort of some lame attempt to improve the reputation of Georgia universities without spending the money that North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and other states with GOOD higher education systems spend on them later.

Well Cobb County, these are the fiscal conservatives that you voted for. The Brumby paper konws this, and that is why they wont' criticize it even though it is hurting the college in its own city. But you certainly know that had this happened under a Democratic administration, the MDJ would be screaming from the rooftops instead of trying to be so even-handed and magnanimous.

It would be far better to challenge the board of regents for being unwilling to invest in graduate and research programs at SPSU than backing this merger, but partisan politics keeps the MDJ from doing so.
otter357
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November 09, 2013
I think you've figured out why there is no objection to this. Surely this is not good for SPSU, but community leaders don't care. Once again, party before community, country, everything.
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